von Willebrand factor (vWf) is secreted from endothelial cells by one of two pathways-a constitutive pathway and a regulated pathway originating from the Weibel-Palade bodies. The molecular form of vWf from each of these pathways differs, with the most biologically potent molecules being released from Weibel-Palade bodies (Loesberg, C., M. D. Gonsalves, J. Zandbergen, C. Willems, W. G. Van Aken, H. V. Stel, J. A. Van Mourik, and P. G. DeGroot. 1983. Biochim. Biophys. Acta. 763:160-168; Sporn, L. A., V. J. Marder, and D. D. Wagner. 1987. Cell. 46:185-190). We investigated the polarity of the two secretory pathways using human umbilical vein endothelial cells cultured on polycarbonate membrane filters which allowed sampling of media from both the apical and basolateral compartments. After metabolic labeling of cells, vWf (constitutively secreted during a 10-min period or released during a 10-min treatment with a secretagogue) was purified from the apical and basolateral chambers and subjected to gel analysis. Approximately equal amounts of vWf were constitutively secreted into both chambers, and therefore this secretory pathway appeared to be nonpolarized. On the contrary, an average of 90% of vWf released from Weibel-Palade bodies after treatment with the calcium ionophore A23187 or PMA appeared in the basolateral chamber, indicating that the regulated pathway of secretion is highly polarized. Thrombin, a secretagogue which promotes disruption of the endothelial monolayer, led to release of vWf from cells with no apparent polarity. The presence of microtubule-depolymerizing agents nocodazol and colchicine inhibited the polarized release of vWf. Ammonium chloride treatment did not disrupt the polarity of the regulated secretory pathway, indicating that maintenance of low pH in intracellular compartments was not required for the polarized delivery of preformed Weibel-Palade bodies to the plasma membrane.