AIM--To analyse patterns of gene expression for peptide regulatory factors in patients with Dupuytren's contracture. METHODS--Tissue samples (palmer fascia) from 12 patients with Dupuytren's contracture and 12 controls were studied using the reverse transcription/polymerase chain reaction (RT/PCR) technique. RESULTS--Tissue from patients with Dupuytren's contracture expressed a higher percentage of peptide regulatory factors than that of controls: interleukin-1 alpha (83% v 16%; p < 0.01); interleukin-1 beta (66% v 8%; p < 0.01); transforming growth factor beta (75% v 25%; p < 0.02); and basic fibroblast growth factor (66% v 25%; p < 0.05). Platelet derived growth factors alpha and beta were also expressed more commonly (66% v 33% and 25% v 16%, respectively), but these differences were not significant. CONCLUSIONS--The increased prevalence of expression for the above mRNAs in Dupuytren's tissue is relevant as interleukin-1, basic fibroblast growth factor, and transforming growth factor beta stimulate the growth of fibroblasts and transforming growth factor beta also enhances production of collagen and other extracellular matrix proteins. Excessive local release of these peptide regulatory factors may have an important role in the pathogenesis of Dupuytren's contracture.