Expression of connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) was induced in renal mesangial cells by activation of heptahelical receptors by serotonin (5-HT) and lysophosphatidic acid (LPA). Induction of CTGF mRNA was transient with maximal expression after 1 to 2 h, whereas induction of CTGF by transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) increased over time. In contrast to the induction of other early response genes (Egr-1 and cyclooxygenase-2), LPA-mediated induction of CTGF was pertussis toxin-insensitive and independent of p42/44 MAP kinase activation. 5-HT-mediated CTGF induction was due to activation of 5-HT(2A) receptors and likewise independent of p42/44 MAP kinase activation. Upon stimulation, enhanced levels of CTGF protein were detected in cellular homogenates, whereas no protein was detectable in cell culture supernatants. Inhibition of proteins of the Rho family by toxin B abrogated basal as well as CTGF expression stimulated by LPA, 5-HT, and TGF-beta. Inhibition of the downstream mediator of RhoA, the Rho kinase by Y-27632 partially reduced induction of CTGF by LPA and TGF-beta. Toxin B not only affected gene expression, but disrupted the actin cytoskeleton similarly as observed after treatment with cytochalasin D. Disassembly of actin stress fibers by cytochalasin D partially reduced basal and stimulated CTGF expression. These data indicate that an intact actin cytoskeleton is critical for the expression of CTGF. Elimination of the input of Rho proteins by toxin B, however, was significantly more effective and their effect on CTGF expression thus goes beyond disruption of the cytoskeleton. These findings thus establish activation of heptahelical receptors coupled to pertussis toxin-insensitive G proteins as a novel signaling pathway to induce CTGF. Proteins of the Rho family and an intact cytoskeleton were identified as critical determinants of CTGF expression induced by LPA and 5-HT, and also by TGF-beta.