The release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cytokines by alveolar macrophages has been demonstrated in asbestos-induced pulmonary fibrosis, but the mechanism linking alveolar macrophages to the pathogenesis is not known. The GTPase Rac1 is a second messenger that plays an important role in host defense. In this study, we demonstrate that Rac1 null mice are protected from asbestos-induced pulmonary fibrosis, as determined by histological and biochemical analysis. We hypothesized that Rac1 induced pulmonary fibrosis via generation of ROS. Asbestos increased TNF-α and ROS in a Rac1-dependent manner. TNF-α was elevated only 1 day after exposure, whereas ROS generation progressively increased in bronchoalveolar lavage cells obtained from wild-type (WT) mice. To determine whether ROS generation contributed to pulmonary fibrosis, we overexpressed catalase in WT monocytes and observed a decrease in ROS generation in vitro. More importantly, administration of catalase to WT mice attenuated the development of fibrosis in vivo. For the first time, these results demonstrate that Rac1 plays a crucial role in asbestos-induced pulmonary fibrosis. Moreover, it suggests that a simple intervention may be useful to prevent progression of the disease. Copyright © 2009 the American Physiological Society.