Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) stimulates transcription of an immediate-early gene set in Balb/c 3T3 cells. One cohort of these genes, typified by c-fos, is induced within minutes following activation of PDGF receptors. A second cohort responds to PDGF only after a significant time delay, although induction is still a primary response to receptor activation as shown by "superinduction" in the presence of the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide. PDGF-receptor activated signaling pathways for the "slow" immediate-early genes are poorly resolved. Using gain-of-function mutations together with small molecule inhibitors of kinase activity, we show that activation of PI 3-kinase is both necessary and sufficient for the induction of the prototype slow immediate-early gene, monocyte chemoattractant-1 (MCP-1). Following activation of PDGF receptors, MCP-1 mRNA does not begin to accumulate for at least 90 min. However, only a brief (10 min) interval of PI 3-kinase activity is required to trigger this delayed response. The serine/threonine protein kinase, Akt/PKB, likely functions as a downstream affector of PI 3-kinase for this induction.