Acidic fibroblast growth factor (aFGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) belong to a family of mitogenic polypeptides that are involved in cellular proliferation and differentiation. In this study we investigated the potential role of aFGF and bFGF in chronic pancreatitis (CP), a fibrotic condition associated with acinar cell dedifferentiation and atrophy, and fibroblastic proliferation. By immunohistochemistry, aFGF and bFGF were abundant in pancreatic ductal and acinar cells in pancreatic tissues from CP patients. Immunoblotting with the same highly specific monoclonal antibodies demonstrated a marked increase in aFGF and bFGF in pancreatic homogenates from CP patients by comparison with the normal pancreas. Northern blot analysis indicated that, by comparison with normal controls, 16 of 21 CP tissues exhibited a 14-fold increase in aFGF mRNA levels, and 19 of 21 CP tissues exhibited a 15-fold increase in bFGF mRNA levels. In situ hybridization confirmed that this overexpression occurred in ductal and acinar cells, and indicated that both mRNA moieties colocalized with their respective proteins. These findings suggest that aFGF and bFGF may either be involved in the pathobiological mechanisms that occur in CP, or that their overexpression may be the consequence of other perturbations that occur in this disorder.