Trophoblast implantation, vascular remodeling, and maintenance of intervillous blood flow may depend on the regulated production of proteolytic enzymes such as plasminogen activator (PA). Since the functional activity of plasminogen activators is determined not only by the quantity of protease but also by levels of specific plasminogen activator inhibitors (PAI), we examined trophoblasts both in vitro and in vivo for the presence of two PAIs, PAI-1 and PAI-2. Cytotrophoblasts were isolated from first trimester or term placentae, cultured, and immunocytochemically stained using specific anti-PAI antibodies. The antiserum against PAI-1 demonstrated prominent cell-surface staining and some cytoplasmic staining. The antiserum generated against PAI-2 revealed a cytoplasmic localization, with some trophoblasts staining intensely, whereas others had no apparent reactivity. We also found that cultured cytotrophoblasts contain the mRNAs for PAI-1 and PAI-2. Immunohistochemical analysis of tissue sections from 8-, 16-, and 40-week implantation sites using antisera against PAI-1 demonstrated weak staining of villous syncytiotrophoblasts but prominent cytoplasmic staining of trophoblasts invading the decidua and myometrium. Antisera against PAI-2 stained the cytoplasm of villous syncytiotrophoblasts, but no staining was evident in villous cytotrophoblasts or in invading trophoblasts. We conclude that 1) human trophoblasts can express both PAI-1 and PAI-2 in vitro and in vivo and 2) prominent PAI-1 immunostaining defines invading trophoblasts, whereas PAI-2 is the predominant PAI accumulated in villous syncytiotrophoblasts. Thus, the various trophoblast forms have distinctive patterns of PAI expression.