Human colon adenocarcinomas and adjacent normal colon tissues were stained immunohistochemically with three different monoclonal antibodies and one preparation of polyclonal antibodies against each of the two plasminogen activators, uPA (urokinase type) and tPA (tissue type). The staining patterns seen with the respective sets of antibodies were identical. In all of 10 cases, staining for uPA in the normal colon tissue was confined to scattered fibroblastlike cells in the lamina propria. Other cells, including epithelial and endothelial cells, were uPA negative. All the tumor infiltrates contained many more uPA-positive cells than the normal tissues, but the staining was confined to fibroblastlike cells and endothelial cells in the tumor stroma, while no staining of the malignant epithelial cells was detected. Analysis for uPA by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in four cases showed an average uPA content of 0.15 ng uPA/mg protein in the normal colon tissues and 1.6 ng uPA/mg protein in the tumors. Tissue-type plasminogen activator immunoreactivity was confined to endothelial cells in both the normal colon tissue and in the colon carcinomas. These findings may indicate that colon cancer cells recruit stromal cells to produce uPA involved in degradation of the extracellular matrix during invasive growth.