We have established a mouse model for scleroderma induced by repeated local injections of bleomycin (BLM). Daily injection of BLM at a dose of >10 microg per ml for 4 wk induced histologic changes of dermal sclerosis, but not fibrosis, with thickened and homogenous collagen bundles and cellular infiltrates in BALB/C mice, whereas clinical signs of scleroderma were not apparent. In addition, lung fibrosis was also induced preceding the cutaneous changes. Sclerotic changes were not found in other sites of the skin distant from the injection site. Dermal sclerosis could also be induced by injecting BLM only every other day. The sclerotic changes of the dermis were sustained after ceasing BLM applications for at least 6 wk. Mast cells gradually increased in number as the sclerotic changes developed. Marked degranulation of mast cells was observed with elevated histamine release. The amount of hydroxyproline in skin was significantly increased at 4 wk of BLM treatment as compared with that in untreated or phosphate-buffered saline-treated mice. Anti-nuclear antibody was detected in serum of BLM-treated mice. Transforming growth factor-beta1 mRNA was detected at an early phase, while transforming growth factor-beta2 mRNA was strongly expressed at 4 wk when the sclerotic features were prominent. These results suggest that dermal sclerosis induced by BLM closely resembles systemic sclerosis both histologically and biochemically. Our mouse model can provide a powerful tool of inducing dermal sclerosis to examine the pathogenesis and the therapeutic approach of scleroderma.