The human omentum contains a potent, not yet identified angiogenic activity. The omentum is very vascularized. Therefore, we investigated whether human omental microvascular endothelial cells (HOME cells) express the angiogenic peptide basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF). Cytosol prepared from HOME cells stimulated DNA synthesis in bovine epithelial lens cells (BEL cells). The mitogenic activity could be neutralized by an anti-bFGF antibody. Basic FGF-like material from the HOME cell cytosol was bound onto a heparin-Sepharose column at 0.6 M and was eluted at 3 M NaCl. The 3 M NaCl eluted material reacted with the specific anti-bFGF antibody in an ELISA and stimulated DNA synthesis. It did not react with a specific anti-acidic fibroblast growth factor (aFGF) antibody. Western blotting experiments using the same bFGF antibody showed the presence of a major band of 17 Kd and a doublet of 20-22 Kd. Northern blotting of non-stimulated HOME cells using a specific 1.4 kb bFGF probe showed the presence of 5 molecular species of 6.6, 3.7, 2.2, 2.0, and 1.0 kb. No aFGF mRNA was detected with a specific previously characterized 4.04 kb probe. 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA) did not influence significantly the expression of bFGF at the protein and mRNA level in HOME cells. Thus, protein kinase C activation by TPA did not appear to modulate significantly the expression of bFGF for that cell type. Contrastingly, human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVE cells), which expressed no bFGF and aFGF mRNA at a basal level, were induced to express bFGF but not aFGF mRNA when stimulated by TPA. These results suggest that the described angiogenic activity could be the bFGF-like mitogen contained in HOME cells and that these cells are different from endothelial cells derived from large vessels (HUVE cells) regarding the expression of bFGF.