Effects of endothelin on DNA synthesis were investigated in two clones of vascular smooth muscle cells, 1YB4 and A7r5. The peptide stimulated DNA synthesis in both clones with apparent EC50 of less than 1 ng/ml. More than 17 h was required before initiating endothelin-stimulated DNA synthesis. The platelet-derived growth factor at a concentration which had no effects by itself on DNA synthesis enhanced the effect of low concentrations of endothelin. A calcium antagonist, nifedipine, inhibited endothelin-induced DNA synthesis. These data suggest that endothelin stimulates DNA synthesis in vascular smooth muscle cells through nifedipine-sensitive mechanisms that can be modulated by platelet-derived growth factor.