In an earlier report, we used differential cloning to identify genes that might be critical in controlling arterial neointima formation (Giachelli, C., N. Bae, D. Lombardi, M. Majesky, and S. Schwartz. 1991. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 177:867-873). In this study, we sequenced the complete cDNA and conclusively identified one of these genes, 2B7, as rat osteopontin. Using immunochemistry and in situ hybridization, we found that medial smooth muscle cells (SMC) in uninjured arteries contained very low levels of osteopontin protein and mRNA. Injury to either the adult rat aorta or carotid artery using a balloon catheter initiated a qualitatively similar time-dependent increase in both osteopontin protein and mRNA in arterial SMC. Expression was transient and highly localized to neointimal SMC during the proliferative and migratory phases of arterial injury, suggesting a possible role for osteopontin in these processes. In vitro, basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), and angiotensin II (AII), all proteins implicated in the rat arterial injury response, elevated osteopontin expression in confluent vascular SMC. Finally, we found that osteopontin was a novel component of the human atherosclerotic plaque found most strikingly associated with calcified deposits. These data implicate osteopontin as a potentially important mediator of arterial neointima formation as well as dystrophic calcification that often accompanies this process.