Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is a cysteine-rich peptide synthesized and secreted by fibroblastic cells after activation with transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) that acts as a downstream mediator of TGF-beta-induced fibroblast proliferation. We performed in vitro and in vivo studies to determine whether CTGF is also essential for TGF-beta-induced fibroblast collagen synthesis. In vitro studies with normal rat kidney (NRK) fibroblasts demonstrated CTGF potently induces collagen synthesis and transfection with an antisense CTGF gene blocked TGF-beta stimulated collagen synthesis. Moreover, TGF-beta-induced collagen synthesis in both NRK and human foreskin fibroblasts was effectively blocked with specific anti-CTGF antibodies and by suppressing TGF-beta-induced CTGF gene expression by elevating intracellular cAMP levels with either membrane-permeable 8-Br-cAMP or an adenylyl cyclase activator, cholera toxin (CTX). cAMP also inhibited collagen synthesis induced by CTGF itself, in contrast to its previously reported lack of effect on CTGF-induced DNA synthesis. In animal assays, CTX injected intradermally in transgenic mice suppressed TGF-beta activation of a human CTGF promoter/lacZ reporter transgene. Both 8-Br-cAMP and CTX blocked TGF-beta-induced collagen deposition in a wound chamber model of fibrosis in rats. CTX also reduced dermal granulation tissue fibroblast population increases induced by TGF-beta in neonatal mice, but not increases induced by CTGF or TGF-beta combined with CTGF. Our data indicate that CTGF mediates TGF-beta-induced fibroblast collagen synthesis and that in vivo blockade of CTGF synthesis or action reduces TGF-beta-induced granulation tissue formation by inhibiting both collagen synthesis and fibroblast accumulation.