An endothelial cell growth factor with unique specificity for vascular endothelial cells has been purified from the conditioned medium of the AtT-20 pituitary cell line. This growth factor, which has been characterized as a homodimer composed of two subunits with mol. wts of 23 kd is a potent mitogen for vascular endothelial cells in vitro with activity detectable at 50 pg/ml and saturation at 1 ng/ml. It was also angiogenic in vivo. In contrast with other endothelial mitogens of the fibroblast growth factor family, it has a unique target cell specificity. It did not stimulate the growth of other cell types of the vascular system such as vascular smooth muscle cells or that of mesoderm and neuroectoderm derived cells. Microsequencing revealed an amino-terminal sequence with no homology to any known protein. The release of this novel endothelial cell growth factor by pituitary derived cells and its unique target cell specificity suggest that it could play an important role in the angiogenic process.