Adult rat arterial smooth muscle cells are shown to express platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) A chain mRNA, to secrete a PDGF-like mitogen, and to bind exogenous PDGF in a phenotype- and growth state-dependent manner. In the intact aortic media, where the cells are in a contractile phenotype, only minute amounts of PDGF A chain and no B chain (c-sis) RNA were detected. After cultivation and modulation of the cells into a synthetic phenotype, the A chain gene was distinctly expressed, whereas the B chain gene remained unexpressed. Cells kept in serum-free medium on a substrate of plasma fibronectin showed high levels of A chain RNA and high PDGF receptor activity, but did not secrete detectable amounts of PDGF-like mitogen. After exposure to PDGF, which is itself sufficient to initiate DNA synthesis and mitosis in these cells, a PDGF-like mitogen was released into the extracellular medium. Concomitantly, the amount of A chain transcripts per cell and the ability of the cells to bind radioactive PDGF decreased. Similarly, smooth muscle cells initially grown in the presence of serum released more PDGF-like mitogen, contained fewer A chain transcripts, and bound more radioactive PDGF in proliferating than in stationary cultures. The findings confirm the notion that adult rat arterial smooth muscle cells are able to promote their own growth in an autocrine or paracrine manner. Furthermore, they reveal some basic principles in the control of this process.

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