Abstract Phorbol myristate acetate (PMA), a tumor promotor known to stimulate collagenase production in fibroblasts and endothelial cells, was examined with regard to its ability to regulate the expression of the collagenase inhibitor secreted by human skin fibroblasts. Confluent human skin fibroblasts were incubated with concentrations of PMA ranging from 10 −11 to 10 −7 m, and the conditioned medium was analyzed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for both immunoreactive collagenase and collagenase inhibitor. PMA stimulated the production of both collagenase and collagenase inhibitor in several cell lines to maximal rates that were very similar, 300 to 350 vs 230 to 330 pmol 10 μg DNA −1 48 h −1, respectively. Due to differences in the basal levels of expression of these proteins, such rates reflected a two- to sevenfold stimulation in collagenase production, in comparison to a more uniform two- to threefold enhancement in inhibitor synthesis. Production of inhibitor was 50% of maximal at 7 × 10 −9 m and maximal at 10 −7 m phorbol. This concentration-dependent effect was very similar to that observed for collagenase expression. Total protein synthesis by the phorbol-conditioned cells, as studied by incorporation of [ 3H]leucine into newly synthesized protein, was not significantly increased, nor was cellular DNA content. The onset of the effect of PMA on inhibitor production occurred between 4 and 8 h, was maximal by 8 h, and continued undiminished for at least another 64 h. After the first 8 h, inhibitor production continued at a roughly constant rate of ~ 10 pmol 10 μg DNA −1 h −1. Interestingly, following the removal of phorbol from culture medium, such fibroblasts continued to produce increased quantities of inhibitor protein for at least 72 h. Metabolic labeling studies in which fibroblasts were exposed to [ 3H]leucine followed by immunoprecipitation using inhibitor-specific antibody suggested that stimulation of inhibitor production by PMA was mediated via an increased synthesis of new inhibitor protein. Therefore, in response to the tumor promoter, PMA collagenase and collagenase inhibitor expression by human skin fibroblasts appear to be coregulated.