Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is a member of a family of immediate early gene products that may play an important role during tissue regeneration, wound repair and skin fibrosis. In this study, CTGF gene expression in mesenchymal tumors was investigated by in situ hybridization and CD34 antigen expression was studied by means of immunohistochemical staining. CTGF mRNA was expressed in fibroblasts of all nine dermatofibromas examined, but five of seven dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP) or two cases of malignant fibrous histiocytoma were negative for its expression. In contrast, CD34 antigen was expressed only in DFSP. In vascular tumors, CTGF mRNA was expressed in pyogenic granuloma but not in angiosarcoma. In addition, the endothelial cells in angiolipoma and angioleiomyoma, but not in venous lake, expressed CTGF mRNA. These vascular lesions were all positive for CD34 expression. Tumors of other origins were negative for CTGF mRNA. Our findings indicated that benign fibroblasts and/or vascular endothelial cells have the capability to express CTGF mRNA when activated, but these cells lose this ability when they achieve malignant potency. Thus, examination of CTGF gene expression may be useful for differentiating between benign and malignant mesenchymal tumors, or to determine the origin of the tumors in connective tissue.