Disseminated intravascular thrombosis is a frequent complication of endotoxic shock, and modulation of endothelial cell hemostatic properties has been proposed to play a role in its pathogenesis based on studies of endothelial cells in culture. This study examined the in vivo expression of tissue factor (TF) and thrombomodulin (TM) in a baboon model of lethal Escherichia coli sepsis using immunohistochemistry with monospecific antibodies. Expression of E-selectin (E-sel) was also determined as a marker of endothelial cell activation. Correlation of immunoreactivity with procoagulant activity in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated cultured human endothelial cells showed that immunohistochemistry was sufficiently sensitive to detect as little as 5% of the maximum in vitro endothelial cell TF response. Vascular endothelium of control animals expressed TM but had no detectable TF or E-sel. Following E. coli infusion, widespread E-sel expression and microvascular fibrin deposition was evident within 6 hours. However, expression of TF by endothelial cells became detectable only in the splenic microvasculature, where endothelial specificity of TF expression was confirmed by dual immunofluorescence of TF with von Willebrand's factor and with TM. In the spleen, there was a dissociation of expression of TF and E-sel, with marginal zone vessels being TF-positive and E-sel-negative, whereas sinusoidal endothelium was E-sel-positive but TF-negative. TM expression was unchanged from controls. Additionally, expression of TF by lung alveolar epithelial cells, splenic macrophages, and epithelial cells of the renal glomeruli was observed to be enhanced in septic animals. This study documents endothelial cell expression of TF in vivo in a relevant pathological setting. At the same time, compared with endothelial cells in culture, there is in vivo both significantly greater control of TF expression than expected, given the strong positive stimuli present in lethal E. coli septic shock and an unpredicted heterogeneity of activation responses.