The cellular localization of procollagen types I, III, IV, and V gene transcripts was determined in tissues from 12 patients with either Crohn's disease (CD) or ulcerative colitis (UC) and nine controls by in situ hybridization with 35S-labeled RNA probes. In CD, the signal intensity and number of labeled cells were significantly increased, particularly in deeper intestinal layers. In contrast, the labeled cells in UC were concentrated in the subepithelial intestinal layers, with an overexpression of procollagen III RNA transcripts. Immunohistological stainings for procollagen types I, III, and IV showed a weaker staining in UC than in CD, indicating that increased transcript levels in UC are unrelated to the enhanced collagen protein deposition, although the increase of procollagen messenger RNA levels correlated with the density of the inflammatory infiltrate. It was concluded that both CD and UC show highly increased procollagen RNA transcript levels but differ in collagen deposition. Thus, different posttranscriptional or posttranslational regulatory mechanisms, such as collagen degradation, may account for the observed differences.