Human retinal pigment epithelial cells at confluence were used to condition serum-free Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium. Conditioned media were exhaustively dialyzed against 0.5 N acetic acid, lyophilized, and subjected to Western blot analysis, using as primary antibody an IgG fraction prepared from goat antiserum directed against human platelet-derived growth factor. Native platelet-derived growth factor was resolved as a band with Mr of 30 kDa under non-reducing conditions, while bands with Mr of 36-38 kDa and 18.5 kDa were resolved from retinal pigment epithelial cell-conditioned media. Acid extracts of retinal pigment epithelial cells also contained bands at 36-38 kDa and media conditioned for 48 hr exhibited much denser bands than media conditioned for 24 hr. No bands were detected when non-immune goat IgG fractions were substituted for primary antibody and when conditioned media were prepared from several human fibroblast lines in the same manner as those prepared from retinal pigment epithelial cells, no detectable bands or only a faint shadow at 36 kDa were seen. Retinal pigment epithelial cell-conditioned media prepared in the presence of [35S]methionine were loaded on an anti-platelet-derived growth factor IgG affinity column, eluted, and subjected to SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Bands with Mr slightly less than 36 kDa and 18 kDa were visualized by autoradiography, demonstrating that the platelet-derived growth factor-like proteins in retinal pigment epithelial cell-conditioned media are newly synthesized. Two fractions eluted from the column also markedly stimulated fibroblast chemotaxis and incorporation of [3H]thymidine, both of which were neutralized by soluble anti-platelet-derived growth factor IgG. These data suggest that retinal pigment epithelial cells in culture produce platelet-derived growth factor-like proteins and secrete them into their media where they are capable of stimulating fibroblast chemotaxis and proliferation.