Conditioned medium from isolated cerebral capillary endothelial cells (ECCM) was found to promote DNA synthesis in astrocytes and pericytes, but not in oligodendrocytes or endothelial cells (EC) in vitro. The astrocyte was the cell of primary interest and the cell tested in the following experiments. The effect of ECCM on astrocytes was concentration and time dependent. The growth factor was released by EC into the medium in a cumulative manner for up to 72 hours. This release was not the result of a nonspecific leakage of an internal store, since the DNA synthetic activity of cell lysates was negligible. The growth factor secretion per cell was higher in sparse than in confluent EC cultures and was partially inhibited by preincubation of EC with interleukin-1. The DNA synthetic activity was due to a peptide, different from basic fibroblast growth factor, transferrin, bovine fibronectin and platelet derived growth factor, with a molecular weight greater than 50,000. The peptide derived from the cerebral capillary EC could be involved in the local signaling between cell types that control new vessel formation in development, in regeneration after brain tissue injury, or in tumor formation.