Increased lung collagen and increased collagen synthesis by lung fibroblasts is well recognized in pulmonary fibrosis. gamma-Interferon has been shown to inhibit collagen synthesis by fibroblasts. To understand its effect on lung fibroblasts we compared how this lymphokine affects the growth and collagen synthesis of normal and fibrotic human lung fibroblasts. The results showed that gamma-IFN inhibited DNA synthesis in all fibroblast strains examined. Both collagen production and type 1 mRNA levels were reduced in three normal and two fibrotic cell strains exposed to gamma-IFN, while they were not affected in one strain from fibrotic lung. Even though an occasional cell was unaffected by the gamma-IFN, collagen mRNA level was reduced in most cells and it remained reduced for 48 h after removing the gamma-IFN. These results show that gamma-IFN inhibits the growth of fibroblast cultures derived from normal and fibrotic human lungs and suppresses collagen synthesis in most of these cells.