Elastin and type IV collagen production are markedly elevated in fibroblasts derived from the skin of patients with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria (HGP). Fibroblasts from three affected children and their parents were compared to normal human skin fibroblasts with respect to elastin production as a function of different concentrations of calf serum and the cytokines, transforming growth factor-beta and basic fibroblast growth factor (TGF-beta 1, bFGF). In cultured fibroblasts from the parents of probands that were very high elastin producers (> 10(5) molecular equivalents/cell per h), at least one parent (mother) presented the same phenotype. Overproduction of elastin in culture could have been due to increased sensitivity of HGP strains to stimuli present in serum; however, relative stimulation of elastin production by calf serum in cell strains from HGP elastin over-producers was less than half the control strain. In most of the cultures examined, the responsiveness of elastin production to TGF-beta 1 was almost absent when compared to the response of normal fibroblasts. HGP strains with high elastin production modified conditioned medium to enhance elastin production in normal cells. These results suggest the presence, in HGP skin fibroblasts, of inheritance of high elastin production that is associated with accelerated aging.