Pulmonary fibrosis is a potentially fatal consequence of treatments for malignancy and is an increasing problem in bone marrow transplant patients and in cases of allogenic lung transplant. The fibrotic response is characterized by increases in lung fibroblast number and collagen synthesis. This laboratory previously isolated stable, functionally distinct, murine lung fibroblast subsets (Thy-1+ and Thy-1-) to study the contribution of fibroblast subpopulations in lung fibrosis. The fibroblast fibrotic response may be induced by cytokines secreted by infiltrating cells such as T lymphocytes and mast cells. In the current study two key regulatory cytokines, interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and interleukin-4 (IL-4), were investigated for their effects on the collagen synthesis of murine lung fibroblast subsets. IL-4 and IFN-gamma are putatively characterized as fibrogenic and anti-fibrogenic cytokines, respectively, and are found in repairing lung tissue. Stimulation with recombinant IL-4 induced a100% increase in total collagen production only by Thy-1+ fibroblasts. Types I and III collagen mRNA were increased in the Thy-1+ fibroblasts, unlike the Thy-1- subset. In contrast, IFN-gamma decreased constitutive collagen production by more than 50% in Thy-1+ and Thy-1- fibroblasts. Interestingly, the two subsets utilized their collagen production machinery (collagenase, tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases) differently to further regulate collagen turnover in response to IL-4 and IFN-gamma. Overall, our data support the hypothesis that IL-4 is fibrogenic and IFN-gamma is anti-fibrogenic. Moreover, selective expansion of IL-4 responsive fibroblasts (e.g., Thy-1+) may be important in the transition from repair to chronic fibrosis. In addition, these data suggest that an inflammatory response dominated by IL-4-producing Th2 lymphocytes and/or mast cells will promote fibrosis development.