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To investigate whether the level of plasminogen activator (PA) activity assayed in gastrointestinal carcinomas and the “morphologically normal tissues” adjacent to them is associated with the degree of tumor progression.Tumor and “normal tissues” were obtained from gastrointestinal surgical samples to assess urokinase-type (u-PA) and tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA) activities by radial caseinolytic assay and the expression of PA inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) by ELISA. We compared the PA system between the tumor and “normal tissues” and we investigated the existence of correlations between: (a) PA production in the tumor and “normal tissues”, (b) different components of the PA system, and (c) PA system and the degree of tumor progression.(1) Total PA activity, u-PA activity and PAI-1 expression are significantly higher in tumor than in “normal tissues”, whereas t-PA activity does not differ between them. (2) Total PA activity mainly correlates with u-PA activity in tumor tissues and similarly with u-PA and t-PA activities in “normal tissues”. (3) There is a significant association between t-PA activity in tumor and “normal tissues” and the degree of tumor progression.“Morphologically normal tissues” adjacent to carcinomas present abnormal t-PA activity that is associated with the degree of tumor progression. Assaying of this activity could be useful as a predictive parameter.