Recently we demonstrated an important function of keratinocyte growth factor (KGF) in wound re-epithelialization. As KGF is mitogenic for various epithelial cells, we speculated about a role of KGF in epithelial repair processes of other organs as seen in a variety of inflammatory diseases. Here we demonstrate a strikingly increased expression of KGF in surgical specimens from patients suffering from Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The levels of KGF expression strongly correlated with the degree of inflammation as assessed by histological analysis of adjacent tissue and expression analysis of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 beta. The highest levels of KGF mRNA and protein were found in mesenchymal cells of the lamina propria, particularly in highly inflamed areas. As the KGF receptor is expressed in intestinal epithelial cells, KGF seems to act in a paracrine manner to stimulate proliferation of these cells. These data suggest a crucial role of KGF in epithelial repair after injury caused by inflammatory processes.