We explored the role of interleukin 1 (IL-1) in two models of pulmonary fibrosis (PF), elicited in mice by the intra-tracheal instillation of bleomycin or silica. In both models, administration of IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) by an osmotic minipump implanted i.p., at a rate of 0.5 microgram/h, completely prevented the collagen deposition, as evaluated by the lung hydroxyproline content on day 15 after instillation. IL-1ra had little or no influence on the number of cells recovered from the broncho-alveolar lavage. Study of histological sections suggests that IL-1ra globally decreased the proportion of damaged lung and particularly in silica the formation of nodules with a rich content in collagen fibrils. IL-1ra was also effective in reducing the lung hydroxyproline content when given on day 25 after instillation of bleomycin or silica, indicating that it may reverse established PF. This study indicates that IL-1ra might be useful for the treatment of incipient or established pulmonary fibrosis.