The influence of advanced glycosylation end products (AGE) on bovine retinal pericytes was investigated. When pericytes were cultured with AGE-bovine serum albumin (BSA), pericyte growth was significantly retarded in a dose-dependent manner. They also exhibited an immediate toxicity to pericytes. However, MRC-5 human fibroblasts were totally resistant to AGE-BSA. Moreover, antisense oligonucleotides complementary to mRNA coding for AGE receptor were found to reverse the AGE-induced decrease in viable pericyte number, although the mRNA level was about one order of magnitude lower in pericytes than in the fibroblasts. These results indicate that pericytes may possess a peculiar sensitivity to AGE, and that AGE ligand-receptor interactions may play an important role in the pathogenesis of pericyte loss, the principal change in diabetic microangiopathies.