The role of some growth factors and cytokines in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis (SSc) has been suggested. In particular, the contribution of transforming growth factor beta in the progression of skin sclerosis is suspected. Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) was originally identified in human umbilical vein endothelial cells, and a recent study has revealed that human skin fibroblasts produce CTGF after stimulation with transforming growth factor beta. In the present study, the distribution of CTGF gene expression in tissue sections from patients with SSc was investigated by digoxigenin-labeled in situ hybridization. Strong CTGF mRNA signals were observed in the fibroblasts in sclerotic lesions, especially in the deep dermis, of the skin specimens from patients with SSc, whereas there was no expression in the skin from normal controls. The number of fibroblasts with positive hybridization signals was more abundant in the dermis from the sclerotic stage than in that from the inflammatory stage. Our findings indicate a correlation between CTGF gene expression and skin sclerosis and support the hypothesis that transforming growth factor-beta plays an important role in the pathogenesis of SSc, because transforming growth factor beta is the only inducer for CTGF identified to date.