Wound contraction is an essential component of wound healing. However, the development of scar contractures in tissues and organs disrupts normal organ integrity and produces functional deformities. Although interferons alpha and gamma inhibit extracellular matrix protein production by fibroblasts, their effects on cytoskeletal protein mediated-wound contraction are as yet unclear. The fibroblast-populated collagen lattice is an in vitro assay that simulates wound contraction. When matched pairs of human hypertrophic scar and normal dermal fibroblast cultures established from patients recovering from a thermal injury were used, interferon-alpha 2b exposure before lattice formation was found to significantly inhibit contraction in a treatment time-dependent manner (p < 0.05). Fibroblasts generated contractile forces that were triphasic and serum sensitive (p < 0.01). Comparison of hypertrophic scar and normal dermal fibroblasts revealed no significant differences in ability to induce lattice contraction. Northern blot analysis of mRNAs for the intracellular contractile proteins revealed that interferon-alpha 2b significantly down-regulated mRNA levels of the actin isoforms beta and gamma (50% to 60%) but had no significant effect on alpha-tubulin, vimentin, and alpha-actinin. Fibroblast-populated collagen lattices were stained with rhodamine-labeled phalloidin to reveal filamentous actin proteins. Marked morphologic alterations of the stress fibers were associated with reductions in lattice contraction after interferon-alpha 2b treatment. Thus interferon-alpha 2b's inhibition of wound contraction in vitro is associated with reductions in mRNA for beta and gamma actin and distinct morphologic alterations in fibroblast stress fiber morphology.