The FLT4, FLT1 and KDR/FLK1 genes encode structurally similar endothelial cell receptor tyrosine kinases. Recently it has been shown that the FLT1 and KDR/FLK-1 proteins function as high-affinity receptors for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Here we show that FLT4 does not act as a receptor for VEGF, as VEGF did not show specific binding to the FLT4 tyrosine kinase or induce its autophosphorylation. Also, FLT4 did not interact with KDR in response to VEGF. However, when fused with the ligand binding domain of the colony stimulating factor-1 receptor (CSF-1R), the FLT4 tyrosine kinase was specifically activated by CSF-1. The activated FLT4 tyrosine kinase domain was found to interact with the Src homology 2 domains of the SHC and GRB2 adaptor proteins in vitro and with SHC in cells. CSF-1 stimulation of the CSF-1R/FLT4 receptor chimera induced thymidine incorporation in serum-starved NIH3T3 fibroblasts, but not in porcine aortic or murine lung capillary endothelial cells, although tyrosyl phosphorylation of the receptor and SHC occurred in these cells as well. These results suggest that the endothelial cell FLT4 receptor tyrosine kinase transmits signals for an as yet unidentified growth factor.