Recombinant human platelet-derived endothelial cell growth factor, expressed in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae was purified to greater than 98% purity by anion-exchange and hydroxyapatite chromatography. It was shown to possess thymidine phosphorolytic activity in vitro (pH optimum, pH 5.3; Km, 0.11 mM; Vmax, 12.5 mmol min-1 mg-1; turnover number, 9.4 s-1). Covalent modification simultaneously inhibited the enzymatic and mitogenic properties of the protein, while interaction with a cell-surface receptor was not required to stimulate mitogenesis. Purified Escherichia coli thymidine phosphorylase was also mitogenic toward endothelial cells. It is proposed that platelet-derived endothelial cell growth factor is human thymidine phosphorylase which promotes endothelial cell proliferation by reducing thymidine levels that would otherwise be inhibitory to endothelial cell growth.