Thy-1 is a glycosylphosphatidyl-inositol-linked cell surface glycoprotein whose exact biological role remains unclear. Differential expression of Thy-1 affects fibroblast proliferation and fibrogenic signaling. In idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the proliferating myofibroblasts within the fibroblastic foci are Thy-1(-), whereas normal lung fibroblasts are predominantly Thy-1(+). In this study, we used rat lung fibroblasts sorted for Thy-1 expression to examine myofibroblastic differentiation in response to fibrogenic stimuli. We examined the effects of transforming growth factor-beta, endothelin-1, and connective tissue growth factor on the expression of myofibroblast proteins and myogenic regulatory factors by real-time RT-PCR and immunoblotting. Thy-1(-) cells have significantly higher myofibroblast and myogenic regulatory factor gene and protein expression compared with Thy-1(+) cells, confirmed by immunofluorescence. We also used floating collagen matrix contraction assays to assess the functional differentiation of the fibroblasts. At baseline and after stimulation with transforming growth factor-beta and endothelin-1, Thy-1(-) cells caused significantly greater collagen contraction than did Thy-1(+) cells, supporting the hypothesis that Thy-1(-) cells are more fully differentiated myofibroblasts. Because apoptosis has been implicated in the regression of myofibroblasts, we examined the percentage of apoptotic cells in the contracted collagen matrices at baseline and after stimulation with fibrogenic agents. A significantly greater proportion of Thy-1(+) cells underwent apoptosis in all conditions compared with Thy-1(-) fibroblasts. Transfection of Thy-1 into Thy-1(-) cells inhibits collagen matrix contraction and reduces cell survival. Our data indicate that Thy-1 regulates myogenic gene expression, myofibroblastic differentiation, and survival in lung fibroblasts.