The aim of this study was to detect the localization of TGF-β1 protein expression in normal sheep lungs and lungs with interstitial pneumonia associated with infection with maedi-visna (MVV). Immunohistochemical localization of TGF-β1 was determined in 24 lungs of adult sheep naturally infected with MVV and six control lungs of seronegative sheep. The lungs of infected animals showed different lesional degrees: grade 0, no lesions; grade I, mild; grade II, moderate; grade III, severe. In normal lungs, TGF-β1 was primarily expressed in airway epithelium, bronchial cartilage and glands, endothelial cells and smooth muscle of blood vessels, alveolar macrophages and type II pneumocytes. No staining was observed in alveolar interstitium. In MVV-infected sheep an increased number of positive alveolar and interstitial macrophages and staining of alveolar interstitium was observed in grade I, grade II and some grade III lesions. In grade III lesions an inverse relationship was found between TGF-β1 staining and smooth muscle hyperplasia. Small lymphoid aggregates, in general, showed strong reactivity, whereas larger ones showed weak reactivity, mainly associated with follicular areas. No significant differences in the staining intensity of airways and blood vessels were observed between control and MVV lungs. The increased expression of TGF-β1 in early maedi lesions and its down-regulation in more advanced disease suggest the operation of a temporal regulatory mechanism whereby early expression may lead to the smooth muscle hyperplasia which develops during the disease. The striking inverse relationship between TGF-β1 expression and follicle organization is intriguing and warrants further investigation.