Transforming growth factor-beta (TGFbeta) is synthesized as a precursor protein, pro-TGFbeta, that must be cleaved by a furin-like proteinase before it becomes biologically active. We hypothesized that alkalinization of the trans-Golgi network (TGN)/endosome system may suppress pro-TGFbeta processing and decrease TGFbeta secretion. This hypothesis was tested in human A549 alveolar epithelial and T98G glioblastoma cell lines and in C57BL/6 mice. Inhibition of furin-like activity with decanoyl-RVKR chloromethylketone suppressed pro-TGFbeta processing, thereby significantly reducing the levels of secreted TGFbeta. Brefeldin A, bafilomycin A1, ammonium chloride, and monensin also prevented pro-TGFbeta processing. The alkalinizing lysosomotropic drugs chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, amodiaquine, and azithromycin had a similar effect on the overall production of mature bioactive TGFbeta. Reduced levels of secreted TGFbeta were also associated with a decrease in Smad2 signaling. Mice treated with chloroquine showed a decrease in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid TGFbeta. We conclude that alkalinizing lysosomotropic drugs inhibit pro-TGFbeta processing.