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While elastin degradation is a hallmark of pulmonary emphysema, it is likely that elastin synthesis also occurs. However, the supramolecular structure and function of the newly synthesized elastin are abnormal. Very little is known about the regulation of elastin synthesis during the development of emphysema when prominent collections of mononuclear phagocytes are found in and near the alveolar interstitium. Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) is an important regulator of collagen and fibronectin production in wound healing, which is also accompanied by an influx of mononuclear phagocytes. We hypothesized that TGF-β may influence elastin production by fibroblasts in the pulmonary interstitium. Therefore, we examined the influence of TGF-β on the production of elastin by postconfluent cultures of neonatal rat lung fibroblasts. Elastin production was quantitated by analyzing the incorporation of [3H]valine into the soluble elastin precursor tropoelastin (TE). The incorporation of [3H]valine into TE was approximately 2-fold greater in the presence of 40 or 100 pM TGF-β than in its absence. The intracellular, free [3H] valine pool was increased by 18% in the presence of TGF-β. Therefore, TGF-β-related differences in the precursor pool size were not solely responsible for the observed increase in [3H]valine incorporation. Northern analysis demonstrated that the increase in TE was accompanied by a smaller but significant increase in the steady-state level of elastin mRNA. Thus, the observed increase in TE production can be at least partially attributed to a pretranslational effect of TGF-β.