Human gingival fibroblasts were used to study the effects of increasing concentrations of glucose on protein, collagen and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) synthesis. GAG-synthesis was measured as incorporation of 3H-glucosamine into pronase-resistant macromolecules and collagen synthesis was evaluated by 3H-proline incorporation into collagenase-sensitive protein. Incubation of the fibroblasts with glucose concentration ranging from 5 to 50 mM resulted in a dose-dependent reduction of collagen synthesis; labeled collagen in the culture medium was reduced to 60% of the control incubation (5mM glucose) when incubated with 50 mM glucose for 72 h. Cell-associated radioactivity was decreased to 80% under the same conditions. Although 3H-glycosamine incorporation into GAGs was reduced by increasing glucose concentrations (5 to 20 mM), protein synthesis and cell number were not influenced under the same conditions, as was also the case with distribution of macromolecules in the GAG fractions. The importance of these in vitro results to the incidence of chronic inflammatory periodontal disease in diabetic patients is discussed.