PDGF promotes the growth of oligodendrocyte type-2 astrocyte (O-2A) glial progenitor cells and allows their timely differentiation into oligodendrocytes, the CNS myelin-forming cells. We demonstrate that basic FGF is a potent mitogen for brain O-2A progenitor cells, but blocks their differentiation into oligodendrocytes. Treatment with basic FGF also influences the level of expression of PDGF receptors on O-2A progenitor cells. These cells express only the alpha chain PDGF receptor, and the levels of PDGF alpha receptors decrease as the cells differentiate. In contrast, basic FGF maintains a high level of functionally responsive PDGF alpha receptors in O-2A progenitors. Thus basic FGF activates a signaling pathway that can positively regulate PDGF receptors in O-2A progenitor cells. In this way basic FGF or an FGF-like factor may modulate the production of myelin-forming cells in the CNS.