The signal transduction pathways through which growth factors regulate vascular cell growth are not fully understood. Recent studies suggest that metabolites of the lipoxygenase pathway may be involved in vascular cell growth. We have measured the effect of the lipoxygenase pathway inhibitors nordihydroguiaretic acid (NDGA), 5,6-dehydroarachidonic acid, and baicalein on bovine capillary endothelial cell (EC) and aortic smooth muscle cell (SMC) growth in the presence or the absence of growth factors. NDGA totally suppressed serum-stimulated EC and SMC growth as well as growth factor-stimulated proliferation over a 9-day time course. Removal of the inhibitor revealed that the inhibitory effect of NDGA was reversible and not due to cytotoxicity. The morphology of NDGA-treated EC was changed in a reversible manner from the characteristic polygonal to spindle shape. The 5-lipoxygenase inhibitor 5,6-dehydroarachidonic acid had no effect on vascular cell proliferation, but inhibition of 12-lipoxygenase with baicalein blocked both EC and SMC cell growth in a dose-dependent manner, in the presence and the absence of growth factors. Indomethacin, an inhibitor of the cyclooxygenase pathway, had no effect on EC and SMC proliferation. Quinacrine and oleyloxyethylphosphorycholine inhibition of the phospholipase A2-catalyzed release of arachidonic acid from membrane phospholipids blocked growth factor- and serum-stimulated proliferation of EC and SMC. These results suggested that arachidonic acid metabolites are critical intermediaries in the regulation of vascular cell growth.