Fibrosis is a common pathological feature observed in muscle from patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). In the dystrophic (mdx) mouse model of DMD, the diaphragm is more severely affected than other skeletal muscles. The level of transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1), an inflammatory cytokine, is significantly elevated in mdx diaphragm. However, little is known about the onset of TGF-beta1 messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) expression, or which cells express the mRNA. In this study, we characterized the location and time course of expression of TGF-beta1 mRNA in diaphragm from mdx mice. TGF-beta1 mRNA was significantly elevated in mdx diaphragm at 6 and 9 but not 12 weeks of age, and these changes corresponded with changes in type I collagen mRNA and hydroxyproline concentration. Mononucleated cells localized to areas of fiber necrosis highly expressed the TGF-beta1 transcript in mdx diaphragm. Neutralization of TGF-beta1 by decorin administration resulted in a 40% reduction in the level of diaphragm muscle type I collagen mRNA. These findings support a role for TGF-beta1 during the early stages of fibrogenesis in dystrophic diaphragm muscle. Therapeutic interventions aimed at neutralizing this cytokine may be beneficial in slowing the development of fibrosis in DMD.