Pericellular proteolysis involves the plasminogen activator/plasmin system and plays an important role in cell remodeling involving cell migration and extracellular matrix turnover. Studies in this laboratory have previously characterized a model of proliferative glomerulonephritis induced by Habu snake venom (HSV) in the rat that involves cell migration, proliferation, and extracellular matrix accumulation. Because plasminogen activator-inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) has been used as a marker for cell migration as well as matrix accumulation, we were interested in examining the temporal and spatial expression and cellular sources of PAI-1 mRNA and translated protein over the course of HSV-induced proliferative glomerulonephritis. The results showed a highly localized and progressive expression of PAI-1 mRNA and translated protein by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry at the margins and periphery of glomerular lesions 8 and 24 hr after HSV. The expression of PAI-1 in glomerular lesions localized to the same sites as mesangial cell marker proteins, desmin and Thy-1.1, indicating that mesangial cells synthesize this important regulator proteolysis. Few cells expressed PAI-1 in the central aspects of glomerular lesions at later time intervals (48 and 72 hr) when cell proliferation and expression of extracellular matrix (fibronectin protein and mRNA) were maximal. Therefore, the expression of PAI-1 in this model was associated more with early events related to cell migration than with proliferation or extracellular matrix synthesis. These observations support the hypothesis that the plasminogen activator/plasmin system is involved in cell migration in early remodeling during glomerular disease.