OBJECTIVES: Canonical Wnt signalling has recently emerged as a key mediator of fibroblast activation and tissue fibrosis in systemic sclerosis. Here, we investigated tankyrases as novel molecular targets for inhibition of canonical Wnt signalling in fibrotic diseases. METHODS: The antifibrotic effects of the tankyrase inhibitor XAV-939 or of siRNA-mediated knockdown of tankyrases were evaluated in the mouse models of bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis and in experimental fibrosis induced by adenoviral overexpression of a constitutively active TGF-β receptor I (Ad-TBRI). RESULTS: Inactivation of tankyrases prevented the activation of canonical Wnt signalling in experimental fibrosis and reduced the nuclear accumulation of β-catenin and the mRNA levels of the target gene c-myc. Treatment with XAV-939 or siRNA-mediated knockdown of tankyrases in the skin effectively reduced bleomycin-induced dermal thickening, differentiation of resting fibroblasts into myofibroblasts and accumulation of collagen. Potent antifibrotic effects were also observed in Ad-TBRI driven skin fibrosis. Inhibition of tankyrases was not limited by local or systemic toxicity. CONCLUSIONS: Inactivation of tankyrases effectively abrogated the activation of canonical Wnt signalling and demonstrated potent antifibrotic effects in well-tolerated doses. Thus, tankyrases might be candidates for targeted therapies in fibrotic diseases.