ABSTRACT Recent studies have suggested that cytokines such as macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) might be involved in the pathogenesis of ischaemic heart disease. Macrophage colony-stimulating factor, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), granulocyte-macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), stem cell factor (SCF), interleukin-3 (IL-3) and interleukin-7 (IL-7) are potent cytokines belonging to the same structual class that may affect function, growth and apoptosis both in the heart and other organs. The aims of the present study were to characterize a post-infarction model in the mouse and to examine mRNA expression of M-CSF, GM-CSF, SCF, IL-3 and IL-7 during the development of heart failure. Myocardial infarction (MI) was induced in mice by ligation of the left coronary artery. Average infarct size was 40% and the mice developed myocardial hypertrophy and pulmonary oedema. Ribonuclease (RNAase) protection assays showed abundant cardiac expression of M-CSF and SCF. After MI, we measured down-regulation of cytokine mRNA expression in the heart (M-CSF, SCF), lung (M-CSF), liver (M-CSF) and spleen (M-CSF) compared with sham. Cardiac G-CSF, GM-CSF and IL-7 mRNAs were not detected. In conclusion, abundant cardiac gene expression of M-CSF and SCF was found. In our mouse model of MI, M-CSF and SCF were down-regulated in the heart and several other organs suggesting specific roles for these cytokines during development of ischaemic heart failure.