Malignant mesothelioma is associated with asbestos exposure and remains resistant to all therapeutic intervention. Previous studies have suggested an enhancing role for platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) in mesothelial tumorigenicity, although the mechanism by which PDGF facilitates tumorigenicity is unknown. Here, we evaluate the contribution of PDGF-A expression to mesothelial tumorigenicity using ectopic modulation of PDGF-A expression. We find, in accordance with other reports, that the receptor for PDGF-A, although expressed at high levels in normal human mesothelial cells, is not easily detectable in mesothelioma. Further, we show that PDGF-A overexpression is responsible for autocrine downregulation of its receptor. Our data indicate, surprisingly, that for mesothelioma cells in vitro, high-level activation of a PDGF-A-PDGF receptor loop is antiproliferative whereas abrogation of PDGF-A expression stimulates growth. These data suggest that PDGF-A does not contribute to tumorigenicity by autocrine stimulation of proliferation. In contrast, increased PDGF-A expression in vivo increases tumor incidence and growth rate and decreases the latency period to tumor formation whereas abrogation of PDGF-A expression decreases tumor incidence and increases latency. Thus, the tumorigenic effect of PDGF-A must act through paracrine mechanisms relevant at early stages of tumor initiation.