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Tissue factor (TF) is a major activator of the coagulation cascade and may play a role in initiating thrombosis after intravascular injury. To investigate whether medial vascular smooth muscle provides a source of TF following arterial injury, the induction of TF mRNA and protein was studied in balloon-injured rat aorta. After full length aortic injury, aortas were harvested at various times and the media and adventitia separated using collagenase digestion and microscopic dissection. In uninjured aortic media, TF mRNA was undetectable by RNA blot hybridization. 2 h after balloon injury TF mRNA levels increased markedly. Return to near baseline levels occurred at 24 h. In situ hybridization with a 35S-labeled antisense rat TF cRNA probe detected TF mRNA in the adventitia but not in the media or endothelium of uninjured aorta. 2 h after balloon dilatation, a marked induction of TF mRNA was observed in the adventitia and media. Using a functional clotting assay, TF procoagulant activity was detected at low levels in uninjured rat aortic media and rose by approximately 10-fold 2 h after balloon dilatation. Return to baseline occurred within 4 d. These data demonstrate that vascular injury rapidly induces active TF in arterial smooth muscle, providing a procoagulant that may result in thrombus initiation or propagation.