In studies of the pathogenesis of pancreatic fibrosis, pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) have recently gained attention. In the present study, we established a new collagenase perfusion method through thoracic aorta cannulation to isolate PSCs, and we studied gene expression of TGF-beta1, type I collagen, and connective tissue growth factor using primary cultured PSCs. Our method facilitated PSC isolation, and by our new method, 4.3 +/- 1.2 x 10(6) PSCs were obtained from a rat. In comparing the expression of these genes with that of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), we observed a similar pattern, although PSCs expressed type I collagen gene earlier than did HSCs. These results suggest that PSCs may play an important role in fibrosis of the pancreas, as HSCs do in liver fibrosis; in addition, PSCs may exist in a preactivated state or may be more easily activated than are HSCs. We also isolated the PSCs from a WBN/Kob rat, the spontaneous pancreatitis rat, and compared the gene expression with that from a normal rat.