Interleukin-13 (IL-13) has emerged as a major cytokine mediator of fibroblast activation and pulmonary fibrosis. Normal (from noninflamed lung), Th1-type (induced by the pulmonary embolization of purified peptide derivative-coated beads in mice sensitized to purified peptide derivative), and Th2-type (induced by the pulmonary embolization of Schistosoma mansoni egg antigen-coated beads in mice sensitized with S. mansoni eggs) primary fibroblast cell lines all exhibited constitutive gene expression of two receptor chains that bind and signal IL-13-mediated cellular events: IL-4Ralpha and IL-13Ralpha1. However, all three fibroblast cell lines exhibited divergent synthetic and proliferative responses to the exogenous addition of either recombinant IL-13 or a chimeric protein comprised of IL-13 and a truncated version of Pseudomonas exotoxin (IL13-PE), which targets and kills IL-13 receptor overexpressing cells. The exogenous addition of IL-13 to Th1-type and Th2-type fibroblast cultures significantly increased the cellular expression of IL-13Ralpha2, which may function as an IL-13 decoy receptor. After a 24-hour exposure to IL-13, the total collagen generation and cellular proliferation by Th2-type fibroblasts were significantly higher than that observed in similar numbers of normal and Th1-type fibroblasts. In addition IL13-PE, which binds with highest affinity to IL-13Ralpha2, exhibited down-regulatory effects on proliferation and matrix generation expression by Th1- and Th2-type, but not normal, fibroblasts. Thus, these data demonstrate that fibroblasts derived from murine pulmonary granulomas exhibit divergent expression of functional IL-13 receptor and this expression dictates the responsiveness and susceptibility to recombinant IL-13 and IL-13 immunotoxin, respectively.