Abnormal proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) as well as the platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) plays an important role in the development of proliferative cardiovascular diseases. In this study, we show that treatment of rat and human aortic VSMC with 50 microM 2-(3,4-dihydroxyphenyl)-3,4-dihydro-2H-1-benzopyran-3,5,7-triol (catechin) and epicatechin (EC) fails to inhibit the PDGF-Rb-activated intracellular signal transduction pathway and VSMC growth. In contrast, 10-50 microM epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG), epicatechin-3 gallate (ECG), and catechin-3 gallate (CG), which all have a galloyl group in the 3-position of the catechin structure, effectively inhibit tyrosine-phosphorylation of PDGF-Rb, PI 3'-K, and PLC-gamma1 as well as the PDGF-BB-induced increase in [Ca2+]i. The PDGF-BB-induced increase in DNA synthesis and cell number was inhibited by ECG, EGCG, and CG, but not by catechin and EC. Epigallocatechin (EGC) that has a galloyl group in the 2-position effectively inhibited VSMC growth without affecting the PDGF-Rb signal pathway. A reduction of 45% and 70% of the intimal and medial cell number in the S-phase, respectively, has been observed in the catheter-injured left carotid artery 7 days after treatment of Wistar Kyoto rats with 10 mg/day EGCG. These results suggest that the galloyl group in the P3-position of the catechin structure is essential for inhibiting the PDGF-Rbeta-mediated intracellular signal transduction pathway.