Bovine retina and hypothalamus contain anionic endothelial cell mitogens that display unusual affinities for the negatively charged glycosaminoglycan heparin. Both growth factor activities are acidic polypeptides (pl's of 5.0) as determined by isoelectric focusing and DEAE-affinity chromatography. In spite of their anionic nature, the factors bound to heparin-Sepharose columns with high affinity and could be eluted only at high salt concentrations (0.9-1.1 M NaCl). The affinity of the retina-derived growth factor (RDGF) for heparin permitted a 15,000-fold purification of the mitogen in two steps: heparin-affinity chromatography and size exclusion high-performance liquid chromatography. RDGF and the anionic hypothalamus-derived factor (aHDGF) exhibit three major biochemical similarities including isoelectric point, (pl's of 5.0), heparin affinity (elution at 0.9-1.1 M NaCl) and molecular weight (18,000). Additionally, the two factors display similar biological activities, stimulating the proliferation of capillary and human umbilical vein endothelial and 3T3 cells but not vascular smooth muscle cells. We suggest that RDGF and aHDGF are related if not identical growth factor molecules.

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