Alveolar macrophages have been implicated in the pathogenesis of a number of acute and chronic lung disorders. We have previously shown that normal human alveolar macrophages exhibit decreased DNA binding activity of the transcription factor, AP-1, compared with monocytes. Furthermore, this decrease in AP-1 DNA binding appears to be due to a decrease in the redox active protein, redox factor (Ref)-1. Ref-1 is an important redox regulator of a number of transcription factors, including NF-κB and AP-1. In this study we evaluated the role of asbestos, a prototypic model of chronic fibrotic lung disease, in Ref-1 expression and activity. We found that incubation with low concentrations of crocidolite asbestos (0.5-1.25 μg/cm2) resulted in an increase in nuclear Ref-1 protein after 5 min, with a persistent elevation in protein up to 24 h. Additionally, an increase in nuclear Ref-1 could be induced by treating the cells with an oxidant-generating stimulus (iron loading plus PMA) and inhibited by diphenyleneiodonium chloride, an inhibitor of NADPH oxidase. The asbestos-induced accumulation of nuclear Ref-1 was associated with an increase in AP-1 DNA binding activity. These findings suggest that an exposure associated with fibrotic lung disease, i.e., asbestos, modulates accumulation of nuclear Ref-1 in macrophages, and that this effect is mediated by an oxidant stimulus.