The biosynthesis of the serpin alpha 1-proteinase inhibitor is regulated by a feedback mechanism whereby complexes between alpha 1- proteinase inhibitor and serine proteinases bind to liver cells and monocytes, a reaction that activates alpha 1-proteinase-inhibitor gene transcription. Such a mechanism may form the basis for the development of new therapeutic strategies for serpin deficiency states with reduced levels of otherwise normally functioning serpins. This issue was addressed for C1-inhibitor, the missing serpin in hereditary angioedema. C1-inhibitor biosynthesis by Hep G2 hepatoma cells was assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay, by metabolic labeling followed by immunoprecipitation, and by Northern blotting. C1-inhibitor biosynthesis was stimulated by gamma-interferon (100 U/mL) but not by cell exposure to C1-inhibitor-kallikrein (1 mumol/L), C1-inhibitor-C1s (1 mumol/L), and C1-inhibitor-plasmin complexes (1 mumol/L) or to reactive site-cleaved C1-inhibitor (1 mumol/L). Moreover, radioiodinated C1s-C1-inhibitor complex did not bind to Hep G2 cells. C1-inhibitor-kallikrein complex was also without effect on C1-inhibitor mRNA in U 937 cells. Therefore, the proposed mechanism, by which serpin- enzyme complex or reactive site-cleaved serpin binding to a specific receptor provides a signal for the stimulation of the biosynthesis of that serpin, is not operative for the biosynthesis of C1-inhibitor by Hep G2 or U 937 cells.