We assessed whether transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), a fibrogenic growth factor, may be involved in remodeling of asthma and chronic bronchitis; its expression was compared with that of epidermal growth factor (EGF) and granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) in bronchial mucosal biopsies from 13 normal subjects, 24 asthmatics, and 19 patients with chronic bronchitis. TGF-beta immunoreactivity was highly increased in epithelium and submucosa of those with bronchitis and to a lesser extent in asthmatics. By comparison, with normal subjects, EGF immunoreactivity was significantly increased in the epithelium of bronchitic subjects and submucosa of asthmatics, and, GM-CSF immunoreactivity was increased in both epithelial and submucosal cells of asthmatics and to a lesser extent in submucosa of bronchitics. A significant correlation was found between the number of epithelial or submucosal cells expressing TGF-beta in both asthma and chronic bronchitis and basement membrane thickness and fibroblast number. No such correlation was found for EGF or GM-CSF. in situ hybridization for TGF-beta 1 mRNA confirmed the results obtained by immunohistochemistry. By combining in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, it was found that eosinophils and fibroblasts were synthetizing TGF-beta in asthma and bronchitis. These data suggest that TGF-beta, but not EGF or GM-CSF, is involved in airways remodeling in asthma and chronic bronchitis.