Increased airway smooth muscle mass has been demonstrated in patients with asthma, bronchopulmonary dysplasia and most recently, cystic fibrosis. These observations emphasize the need for further knowledge of the events involved in airway smooth muscle mitogenesis and hypertrophy. Workers in the field have developed cell culture systems involving tracheal and bronchial myocytes from different species. An emergent body of literature indicates that mutual signal transduction pathways control airway smooth muscle cell cycle entry across species lines. This article reviews what is known about mitogen-activated signal transduction in airway myocytes. The extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK) and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase) pathways appear to be key positive regulators of airway smooth muscle mitogenesis; recent studies have also demonstrated specific roles for reactive oxygen and the JAK/STAT pathway. It is also possible that growth factor stimulation of airway smooth muscle concurrently elicits signaling through negative regulatory intermediates such as p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase and protein kinase C (PKC) delta, conceivably as a defense against extreme growth.