Retina-derived growth factor (RDGF) is a polypeptide growth factor purified from salt extracts of bovine retinas on the basis of its mitogenic activity for capillary endothelial cells (EC) and BALB/c 3T3 cells. RDGF is angiogenic in vivo. We show here that RDGF induces neurite extension by PC12 cells and that this neurite outgrowth is dramatically potentiated by heparin. Neurite formation elicited by RDGF in the presence of heparin cannot be distinguished from that elicited by nerve growth factor (NGF) either by the time course of neurite formation or by the morphology of the neurites at the level of the light microscope. Neurite outgrowth induced by either purified RDGF or by a crude retinal extract is not blocked by antibodies to NGF. Furthermore, neurite outgrowth induced by NGF is not potentiated by heparin and NGF is not mitogenic for capillary EC. Thus, RDGF has profound regulatory effects on cell types of very different embryonic origins. These results indicate that the physiological role for this growth factor may be far more complex than previously suspected and suggest that the formation of neural connections and the process of vascularization may unexpectedly share common regulatory elements.

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