Pulmonary fibrosis commonly develops in systemic sclerosis. We assessed the role of thrombin in promoting fibroblast proliferation in the lungs in this disorder. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) thrombin concentrations were higher in ten patients with systemic sclerosis than in 12 healthy controls (14.6 vs 3.6 nmol/L, p < 0.02), but values in patients with cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis (n = 10) or sarcoidosis (n = 10) were not increased. BALF from all patients induced fibroblast proliferation. This proliferation was attenuated by thrombin inhibitors for BALF from systemic sclerosis patients only. We suggest thrombin contributes to lung fibroblast proliferation in this disorder.