Tenascin-C is an extracellular matrix component which is transiently expressed in association with epithelial cell detachment, proliferation, and migration. This molecule has been identified in respiratory tissue, but little is known about the cellular source of tenascin-C or the factors that regulate its production. Since air pollutants are known to disrupt epithelial integrity, we investigated the regulation of tenascin-C in response to 0.3 ppm ozone in differentiated primate nasal epithelial cells in culture at an air-medium interface. The expression of tenascin-C was upregulated in response to ozone, as determined by Northern blot analysis, Western blotting, and immunofluorescent staining. In contrast, there was no change in the mRNA levels for versican, biglycan, perlecan, or collagen type I. Reduced cellular attachment to the substrate was evident in ozone-treated cultures in association with tenascin-C deposition at the interfaces between cells and basal surfaces. The presence of tenascin-C on denuded areas of the matrix suggests that tenascin-C may have been instrumental in the loss of patches of cells. The modulation of tenascin-C synthesis and distribution may play a significant role in the response of respiratory epithelial cells to ozone exposure.