Scleroderma is a disorder characterized by fibrosis of the skin and internal organs and autoimmunity. Whereas the cause is unknown, interleukin-4 and transforming growth factor-beta have been postulated to play a major part in the fibrosis. To investigate the part played by these cytokines, we prepared TSK/+ mice with a targeted mutation in the interleukin-4R alpha or transforming growth factor-beta genes. The breeding failed to produce TSK/+ transforming growth factor-beta -/- mice so analysis of the role of transforming growth factor-beta was limited to TSK/+ transforming growth factor-beta +/- mice. We observed that TSK/+ interleukin-4R alpha -/- did not develop dermal thickening, and deletion of one allele of the transforming growth factor-beta gene resulted in diminished dermal thickness compared with TSK/+ mice; however, the deletion of interleukin-4R alpha or transforming growth factor-beta had no effect on lung emphysema, which is another characteristic of TSK syndrome. Electron microscopic analysis of skin showed that the collagen fibrils in TSK/+ interleukin-4R alpha -/- mice exhibit normal periodicity but have a smaller diameter than the fibers found in C57BL/6 mice. Analysis of skin and serum samples showed that the deletion of interleukin-4R alpha or one allele of transforming growth factor-beta prevented the increase of skin thickness paralleled with a decrease in the dermal hydroxyproline content and development of autoantibodies associated with TSK syndrome. These results demonstrate the importance of interleukin-4 and transforming growth factor-beta for the development of cutaneous fibrosis in vivo and suggest an important part for these cytokines in wound healing and connective tissue maintenance in general.