Basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) has been implicated in the maintenance of neuronal differentiation, the induction of neovascularization and intravitreal proliferative diseases. We have found that human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells grown in vitro transcribe the bFGF gene and synthesize a peptide that crossreacts with anti-bFGF antibodies. In culture, these cells appear to release activity with biological and biochemical properties similar to bFGF. RPE cells have specific bFGF receptors and proliferate in response to bFGF. Thus, it is possible that the RPE cell is an important source of retinal bFGF and may respond to bFGF in an autocrine manner.