The effect of transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta 1) on matrix gene expression has been investigated during the process of wound repair, where the formation of new connective tissue represents a critical step in restoring tissue integrity. Split-thickness excisional wounds in the pig were studied by in situ hybridization in order to obtain subjective findings on the activity and location of cells involved in matrix gene expression after the administration of recombinant TGF-beta 1. Data focus on the stimulatory role of this growth factor in granulation tissue formation, on the enhanced mRNA content of collagen types I and III, fibronectin, TGF-beta 1 itself, and on the reduction in stromelysin mRNA, suggesting that increased matrix formation measured after treatment with TGF-beta 1 is due to fibroplasia regulated by the abundance of mRNAs for several different structural, matrix proteins as well as inhibition of proteolytic phenomena elicited by metalloproteinases. These studies reveal elastin mRNA early in the repair process, and elastin mRNA expression is enhanced by administration of TGF-beta 1. Moreover, we show that TGF-beta 1 was auto-stimulating in wounds, accounting, at least in part, for the persistent effects of single doses of this multipotential cytokine.