A serious limitation in the use of the DNA-cleaving, antitumoral-antibiotic, bleomycin during chemotherapy is pulmonary toxicity. Lung injury induced by bleomycin is characterized by an increased deposition of interstitial extracellular matrix proteins in the alveolar wall that compromises respiratory function. Several drugs have been tested in animal models to prevent the pulmonary toxicity of bleomycin, but have not led to a useful clinical treatment because of their adverse effects on other tissues. We have shown that transgenic mice expressing Streptoalloteichus hindustanus (Sh) ble bleomycin resistance protein in pulmonary epithelial cells in the lungs are protected against bleomycin-induced toxicity in lungs. In the present study, we used intranasal administration by adenovirus-mediated gene transfer of the bleomycin resistance Sh ble gene to mouse lung for prevention of bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis. We constructed recombinant adenoviruses Ad.CMVble and Ad.RSVble harboring the bleomycin resistance Sh ble gene under the control of the cytomegalovirus early promoter and the Rous sarcoma virus early promoter, respectively. Transgene expression was detected in epithelia of conducting airways and alveolar septa by immunostaining with a rabbit polyclonal antibody directed against the bleomycin resistance protein and persisted for the duration of drug treatment; i.e., up to 17 d. No toxic effect was seen in adenovirus-treated mice. Pretreatment of mice with Ad.CMVble or Ad.RSVble completely prevented collagen deposition 42-133 d after bleomycin treatment, as measured by lung OH-proline content. Histologic studies indicated that there was little or no lung injury in the adenovirus/bleomycin-treated mice compared with the bleomycin-treated mice. These observations may lead to new approaches for the prevention of bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis.