The expression of B-type receptors for platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) was investigated in skin biopsy samples from patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc), by immunohistochemical staining using monoclonal antibodies specific for the receptor. Whereas skin from healthy individuals lacked expression of PDGF-B receptors, receptor expression was seen in sclerodermatous skin lesions from 13 of 14 patients. Increased receptor expression was observed in dermal vessels, as well as on many stromal fibroblast-like cells close to these vessels. PDGF-B receptor expression was most pronounced within and around dermal vessels in which perivascular infiltrates of Leu-4-positive T lymphocytes and HLA-DR-positive, RFD7-positive activated macrophages were present. Both perivascular inflammatory cell infiltrates and PDGF-B receptor expression were generally also seen in macroscopically normal areas of the skin of the SSc patients, indicating that the observed phenotypic alterations may precede the macroscopically observable features of scleroderma in the skin. The observed induction of PDGF-B receptors, together with indirect indications of increased synthesis and release of PDGF, would be compatible with altered PDGF-mediated control of connective tissue cell growth as part of the molecular basis for development of the skin lesions in SSc.