The present study was carried out to determine whether transforming growth factor-beta, insulin-like growth factor-I and basic fibroblast growth factor mRNA levels were correlated with disease activity in NZB/W F1 mice, an animal model of systemic lupus erythematosus. Levels of mRNA for these three growth factors increased significantly as nephritis progressed in these mice. At 48 weeks of age, transforming growth factor-beta, insulin-like growth factor-I, and basic fibroblast growth factor mRNA levels showed a 11- (p < 0.001), 10- (p < 0.001), and 8-fold (p < 0.001) increase, respectively, in the renal cortex of NZB/W F1 mice when compared with NZW control mice. In NZW kidneys, these mRNA levels showed little change throughout the study period. At 24 weeks of age, NZB/W F1 mice were divided in 2 groups that received either methylprednisolone or saline injections for 24 weeks. The development of histological lesions and the increase in these growth factor mRNA levels in the kidneys of NZB/W F1 mice were both suppressed by methylprednisolone. These results indicate that the transforming growth factor-beta, insulin-like growth factor and basic fibroblast growth factor may play a role in the progression of murine lupus nephritis and that methylprednisolone may be an effective treatment at the transcription level of these growth factor genes for this type of nephritis.