Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) is a potent chemoattractant in vitro for human dermal fibroblasts. Intact disulfide and perhaps the dimeric structure of TGF-beta is essential for its ability to stimulate chemotactic migration of fibroblasts, since reduction with 2-ME results in a marked loss of its potency as a chemoattractant. Although epidermal growth factor (EGF) appears to be capable of modulating some effects of TGF-beta, it does not alter the chemotactic response of fibroblasts to TGF-beta. Specific polyvalent rabbit antibodies to homogeneously pure TGF-beta block its chemotactic activity but has no effect on the other chemoattractants tested (platelet-derived growth factor, fibronectin, and denatured type I collagen). Since TGF-beta is secreted by a variety of neoplastic and normal cells including platelets, monocytes/macrophages, and lymphocytes, it may play a critical role in vivo in embryogenesis, host response to tumors, and the repair response that follows damage to tissues by immune and nonimmune reactions.