Buschke-Ollendorff syndrome (BOS; McKusick 16670) is an autosomal dominant connective-tissue disorder characterized by uneven osseous formation in bone (osteopoikilosis) and fibrous skin papules (dermatofibrosis lenticularis disseminata). We describe two patients in whom BOS occurred in an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern. The connective tissue of the skin lesions showed both collagen and elastin abnormalities by electron microscopy. Cultured fibroblasts from both patients produced 2-8 times more tropoelastin than normal skin fibroblasts in the presence of 10% calf serum. Involved skin fibroblasts of one patient produced up to eight times normal levels, whereas apparently uninvolved skin was also elevated more than threefold. In a second patient, whose involvement was nearly complete, elastin production was high in involved areas and less so in completely involved skin. Transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF beta 1), a powerful stimulus for elastin production, brought about similar relative increases in normal and BOS strains. Basic fibroblast growth factor, an antagonist of TGF beta 1-stimulated elastin production, was able to reduce elastin production in basal and TGF beta 1 stimulated BOS strains. Elastin mRNA levels were elevated in all patient strains, suggesting that Buschke-Ollendorff syndrome may result, at least in part, from abnormal regulation of extracellular matrix metabolism that leads to increased steady-state levels of elastin mRNA and elastin accumulation in the dermis.