Tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMP-1) is a potent inhibitor of activated matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) such as collagenase, stromelysin, and gelatinase, and thus helps to control extracellular matrix metabolism and deposition by connective tissue cells. Since various cytokines and growth factors can modify the production of MMP and TIMP-1, we explored the action of oncostatin M (OM), a unique lymphocyte- and monocyte-derived cytokine, on expression of these proteins. We examined the regulation of TIMP-1 expression in cultured human fibroblasts by cytokines including OM, IL-6, leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), and IL-1 alpha. When used at levels of 5 to 50 ng/ml, OM, IL-6, LIF, and IL-1 alpha elevated the TIMP-1 expression at the RNA level in fibroblasts of lung or synovial origin. Interestingly, OM stimulation resulted in highest levels of TIMP-1 RNA and protein synthesis. However, unlike IL-1 alpha, the cytokines OM, IL-6, and LIF did not induce MMP or PGE2 release. OM also enhanced TIMP-1 mRNA levels in the H2981 lung carcinoma and HepG2 hepatoma cell lines. The results suggest that OM as well as IL-6 and LIF, other cytokines acting through similar receptor pathways, may act to inhibit net MMP activity by specifically up-regulating TIMP-1 expression. The selective induction of TIMP-1 by OM may be influential in altering matrix destruction in chronic inflammation and tumor metastasis.