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Keloids are benign collagenous tumors that occur during dermal wound healing in genetically predisposed individuals. The lesions are characterized by over-proliferation of fibroblasts, some leukocyte infiltration, and prolonged high rates of collagen synthesis. To determine whether leukocyte chemoattractants or chemokines are participating in this disease process, immunohistochemical staining for the CXC chemokine, MGSA/GROalpha, and its receptor, CXCR2, was performed on tissue from keloids, hypertrophic scars and normal skin. Immunoreactive MGSA/GROalpha was not observed in hypertrophic scars or normal dermis, but was present in some myofibroblasts and lymphocytes in nodular areas of the keloid samples. This staining positively correlated with the degree of inflammatory infiltrate in the lesions. Keloids, but not hypertrophic scars or normal dermis, also exhibited intensive immunoreactivity for the CXCR2 receptor in endothelial cells and inflammatory infiltrates with occasional staining of myofibroblasts. In contrast, cultured fibroblasts from either keloids or normal skin did not express detectable amounts of mRNA for MGSA/GRO or CXCR2, although interleukin-1 strongly induced MGSA/GRO mRNA in both cell types. Interleukin-1 induction of MGSA/GRO was inhibited by glucocorticoid in normal and keloid fibroblasts, and the effect was more pronounced in keloid fibroblasts. This event was not correlated with inhibition of nuclear activation of NF-kappaB, AP-1 or Sp1, and might therefore be mediated by another mechanism such as decreased mRNA stability or transcriptional repression through the glucocorticoid response element in the MGSA/GRO promoter. Data from in vitro wounding experiments with cultured normal and keloid fibroblasts indicate that there were no significant differences in MGSA/GRO or CXCR2 receptor levels between normal and keloid fibroblasts. We also show that cultured keloid fibroblasts exhibit a delayed wound healing response. We postulate that the inflammatory component is important in development of keloid lesions and chemotactic cytokines may participate in this process.