Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), the major physiologic inhibitor of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), plays a crucial role in the regulation of fibrinolysis. Both hepatocytes and endothelial cells have been implicated as major sources of plasma PAI-1. To study the relative contribution of these cell types to hepatic PAI-1 production, we have separated hepatocytes and hepatic sinusoidal endothelial cells by fractionation of freshly isolated rat livers using metrizamide density gradients and centrifugal elutriation. In untreated animals, PAI-1 messenger RNA (mRNA) was detected only in the purified endothelial cell fraction, and not in the hepatocyte fraction or in unfractionated liver. However, when the animals were treated with dexamethasone, PAI-1 mRNA expression was transiently induced in the liver. This induction paralleled the appearance of PAI-1 mRNA in purified hepatocytes, while PAI-1 expression in sinusoidal endothelial cells was unchanged. Four hours after dexamethasone treatment, plasma PAI-1 levels were increased approximately twofold over levels measured in animals treated with the diluent alone. These data suggest that PAI- 1 production by hepatocytes may contribute to elevated plasma PAI-1 levels in the setting of acute injury and stress.