We have used intratracheal instillation of bleomycin in rats to study the microanatomical changes of blood vessels associated with lung fibrosis. Bleomycin is a toxic cytostatic drug employed in classical models of lung fibrosis. Wistar rats were submitted to intratracheal injection of 1.5 units of bleomycin and sacrificed 2.5 months later, a timing when marked fibrosis of the lung is observed. We casted the vascular tree of the rat lungs by perfusion with a methacrylate resin. These caste were studied by scanning electron microscopy. Lung tissue was also studied by light microscopy and thin section electron microscopy. The major vascular modifications observed in the bleomycin-treated rats were: (1) neoformation of an elaborate network of vessels located in the peribronchial domains of the lung, and (2) distortion of the architecture of alveolar capillaries. By light microscopy, it was clear that the newly formed vascular network was located in regions of fibrosis (which in the resin casts were digested away). These neoformed vessels appeared to originate from bronchial arteries. Thin section electron microscopy revealed that endothelial cells of the neoformed vessels were plump, presented large nuclei, and showed numerous pinocytotic vesicles that were also observed in subendothelial pericytes. The alveoli of the bleomycin-treated rats were heterogeneous in size and shape in contrast with the homogeneity of alveoli of control animals. The alveolar capillaries of fibrotic lungs appeared to occupy a larger volume of the alveolar wall than alveolar capillaries of control rats. Our findings indicate that lung fibrosis encompasses marked changes of the vascular system, namely, the neoformation of vessels and the rearrangement of alveolar capillaries. These structural changes suggest that fibrotic transformation of the lung is associated with the local generation of angiogenic stimuli. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.