Abstract Neoplastic growth and metastatic spread of adenocarcinomas is characterized by a marked increase of urokinase-type plasminogen activator (u-PA) and a decrease of tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA). In this study, the authors determined the activity and antigen levels of u-PA and t-PA, and their inhibitors, plasminogen-activator inhibitors types 1 and 2 (PAI-1 and PAI-2), in normal mucosa, adenomatous polyps, and adenocarcinomas of the human colon. The decrease in t-PA activity in the neoplastic tissues, determined enzymatically and zymographically, was significantly correlated with an increase in PAI-1 and PAI-2, in particular in carcinomas. In spite of significantly higher inhibitor levels in the neoplastic tissues, u-PA was found to be increased as well, both in antigen level and in activity. The authors conclude that PAI-1 and PAI-2 are significantly increased in neoplastic tissue of the human colon and contribute considerably to the decrease of t-PA activity in carcinomas. However, the malignancy-associated increase in u-PA seems not to be affected by the plasminogen activator inhibitors. Thus, it appears that there is an imbalance between plasminogen activators and their inhibitors in colonic neoplasia in favor of u-PA, which may contribute to plasmin-mediated growth, invasiveness, and metastasis. This feature was also noticed in adenomatous polyps, supporting the malignant potency of adenomas.