The time course for cell surface loss of von Willebrand factor (VWF) and the propolypeptide of VWF (proregion) following exocytosis of individual Weibel-Palade bodies (WPBs) from single human endothelial cells was analyzed. Chimeras of enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) and full-length pre-pro-VWF (VWF-EGFP) or the VWF propolypeptide (proregion-EGFP) were made and expressed in human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Expression of VWF-EGFP or proregion-EGFP resulted in fluorescent rod-shaped organelles that recruited the WPB membrane markers P-selectin and CD63. The WPB secretagogue histamine evoked exocytosis of these fluorescent WPBs and extracellular release of VWF-EGFP or proregion-EGFP. Secreted VWF-EGFP formed distinctive extracellular patches of fluorescence that were labeled with an extracellular antibody to VWF. The half-time for dispersal of VWF-EGFP from extracellular patches was 323.5 +/- 146.2 s (+/-S.D., n = 20 WPBs). In contrast, secreted proregion-EGFP did not form extracellular patches but dispersed rapidly from its site of release. The half-time for dispersal of proregion-EGFP following WPB exocytosis was 2.98 +/- 1.88 s (+/-S.D., n = 32 WPBs). The slow rate of loss of VWF-EGFP is consistent with the adhesive nature of this protein for the endothelial membrane. The much faster rate of loss of proregion-EGFP indicates that this protein does not interact strongly with extracellular VWF or the endothelial membrane and consequently may not play an adhesive role at the endothelial cell surface.