Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) stimulate ectopic bone formation in skeletal muscle. Here we show that human vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) abundantly express mRNA encoding for BMP receptor type II, BMP-2, and BMP-7 proteins. Treatment with the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A inhibitor lovastatin (34 microM) increased BMP-2 gene transcription >14-fold as measured by real-time PCR analysis (P<0.05 vs. solvent control). Moreover, VSMC proliferation stimulated with native low-density lipoprotein (100 microg of protein/mL) was prevented by either human recombinant BMP-2 or BMP-7 at concentrations of 100 ng/mL (P<0.05). Both BMPs also inhibited basal cell proliferation (P<0.05). Induction of BMPs and subsequent inhibition of VSMC growth and/or induction of vascular bone formation could contribute to the mechanisms by which statins increase plaque stability in patients with coronary atherosclerosis.