High plasma plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) activity is a frequent finding in obesity and adipose tissue has recently been suggested to be a source of circulating PAI-1 in humans. In the present study, differences in adipose tissue gene expression and protein secretion rate of PAI-1 between subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue was analysed in specimens obtained from 22 obese individuals. The secretion rate of PAI-1 was two-fold higher in subcutaneous adipose tissue than in visceral adipose tissue (292 +/- 50 vs 138 +/- 24 ng PAI-1/10(7) cells, P <0.05). In accordance with the secretion data, subcutaneous adipose tissue contained about three-fold higher levels of PAI-1 mRNA than visceral adipose tissue (2.43 +/- 0.37 vs 0.81 +/- 0.12 attomole PAI-1 mRNA/microg total RNA, P <0.00). PAI-1 secretion from subcutaneous but not from visceral adipose tissue correlated significantly with cell size (r = 0.43, P<0.05). In summary, subcutaneous adipose tissue secreted greater amounts of PAI-1 and had a higher PAI-1 gene expression than visceral adipose tissue from the same obese individuals. Bearing in mind that subcutaneous adipose tissue is the largest fat depot these finding may be important for the coagulation abnormalities associated with obesity.