Aggregation of pluripotent P19 embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells in the presence of DMSO induces differentiation to various mesodermal cell types, including spontaneously contracting muscle. We have established clonal cell lines from these cultures and characterized one (MES-1) in particular for its response to growth factors. In contrast to the undifferentiated stem cells, but as a number of myoblast and muscle cell lines, MES-1 cells respond to both carbachol and bradykinin by the rapid release of Ca2+ from intracellular stores. In addition, MES-1 express receptors for and respond mitogenically to epidermal growth factor (EGF) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF). Isolated membranes from these cells retain the capacity to bind both ligands; addition of EGF to membranes induces endogenous phosphorylation of several proteins, including the EGF receptor itself and a 38 kD protein, while addition of PDGF specifically induces phosphorylation of the PDGF receptor. By contrast, other derivatives of P19, isolated from retinoic acid (RA)-treated aggregates and resembling neuroectodermal or endodermal cell types respond only to EGF; PDGF neither binds nor induces phosphorylation and a mitogenic response in these cells. During differentiation from EC cells therefore MES-1 cells developed a combination of growth factor receptor characteristics typical of somatic mesodermal cells and indicate that such receptors on EC-derived mesodermal cells are also functional.