Epidemiological studies have suggested that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of cardiovascular mortality. This cardioprotective benefit may be mediated, in part, by promoting fibrinolysis through changes in fibrinolytic components and/or activity, resulting in the decreased risk for thrombosis, coronary artery disease, and eventual myocardial infarction. Endothelial cells (ECs) play a pivotal role in maintaining normal hemostasis by regulating fibrinolysis through the synthesis of plasminogen activators (PAs), tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA), and urokinase-type plasminogen activator (u-PA). The studies described herein were conducted to determine whether a single brief preincubation (1 hr, 37 degrees C) of cultured human umbilical vein ECs (HUVECs) with low ethanol (0.1%, v/v), will upregulate t-PA and/or u-PA gene expression at the transcriptional level, using a combination of nuclear transcription run-on assays and transient transfections of cultured HUVECs with the pPA/luc promoter constructs. Nuclear run-on assays showed approximately 2- to 3-fold and approximately 6- to 7-fold increase in the transcription of new t-PA and u-PA mRNAs, respectively. In addition, transient transfections of cultured HUVECs with the pt-PA363/luc and pu-PA236/luc promoter constructs, using lipofectamine, demonstrated approximately 4- to 6-fold and approximately 6- to 9-fold increase in luciferase activity for t-PA and u-PA, respectively. These combined results demonstrate that low ethanol transcriptionally upregulates both t-PA and u-PA gene expression in cultured HUVECs and provides a molecular basis for the ethanol-induced increase in EC-mediated fibrinolytic activity that may underlie and contribute, in part, to the cardioprotective benefit associated with moderate alcohol consumption.