The mitogens which modulate cell-cell interactions during development of the central nervous system are unknown. One of the few interactions sufficiently well understood to allow identification of such molecules involves the two glial lineages which make up the rat optic nerve. One population of glial cells in this tissue, the type-1 astrocytes, secrete a soluble factor(s) which promotes division of a second population of bipotential oligodendrocyte/type-2 astrocyte (O-2A) progenitor cells; these progenitors give rise to oligodendrocytes, which myelinate large axons in the CNS, and type-2 astrocytes, which enwrap bare axons at nodes of Ranvier. Type-1 astrocytes also promote progenitor motility, and inhibit the premature differentiation of progenitors into oligodendrocytes which occur when these cells are grown in the absence of type-1 astrocytes. We have now found that platelet-derived growth factor mimics the effects of type-1 astrocytes on O-2A progenitor cells, and antibodies to PDGF block the effects of type-1 astrocytes.