The distribution of PAI-1 in the plasma and platelets of normal individuals and of patients with platelet abnormalities was studied. An ELISA, capable of measuring PAI-1 in plasma at 1.5 ng/ml, and a functional assay of t-PA inhibition were used to assay platelet-free plasma (PFP), platelet-rich plasma in which the platelets were lysed (PRP) and serum. The PAI-1 concentration of normal PFP was 21.0 ± 7.2 ng/ml (mean ± SD) and those of PRP and serum were 282.6 ± 68.0 and 270.3 ± 71.9 ng/ml. The concentration of PAI-1 in PRP was proportional to the platelet count with 0.67 ± 0.18 ng/106 platelets. Patients with thrombocy-topenia had approximately normal PAI-1 concentrations in PFP; the extremely low concentrations in serum or PRP reflected the platelet count. A patient with grey platelet syndrome showed a comparable pattern, confirming that PAI-1 occurs in the platelet α-granules and indicating that the plasma concentration of PAI-1 is independent of the platelet pool of PAI-1. The median inhibitory activities towards t-PA were 1.6, 8.7 and 8.3 units/ml in normal PFP. PRP and serum respectively. PAI-1 in PFP had a median specific activity (units/mg PAI-1) about 5-fold higher than platelet PAI-1. Plasma and platelets represent two distinct pools of PAI-1, both of which should be considered in studies on the relationship between circulating PAI-1 and thrombotic disease.