The regulation of type 1 plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-1) gene expression was studied in vivo employing a murine model system. Nuclease protection analysis revealed relatively high concentrations of PAI-1 mRNA in the aorta, adipose tissue, heart, and lungs of untreated CB6 (BalbC X C57B16) mice. Treatment of CB6 mice with LPS, TNF-alpha, or transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) increased the steady-state levels of PAI-1 mRNA within 3 h in all tissues examined. However, the greatest responses to TGF-beta were observed in adipose tissue and the kidney, while LPS and TNF-alpha strongly stimulated PAI-1 gene expression in the liver, kidney, lung, and adrenals. In C3H/HeJ mice, which exhibit defective TNF-alpha release in response to LPS, the response of the PAI-1 gene to LPS was severely attenuated. However, injection of these mice with TNF-alpha increased PAI-1 mRNA in a tissue-specific pattern strikingly similar to that observed in LPS-treated CB6 mice. These results demonstrate that the PAI-1 gene is regulated in a complex and tissue-specific manner in vivo, and suggest a role for TNF-alpha in the response of the PAI-1 gene to sepsis.