When implanted as a biomaterial for tissue replacement, selected submucosal layers of porcine small intestine induce site-specific tissue remodeling. Small intestinal submucosa (SIS), as isolated, is primarily an acellular extracellular matrix material. In an attempt to discover the components of small intestinal submucosa which are able to induce this tissue remodeling, the material was extracted and extracts were tested for the ability to stimulate Swiss 3T3 fibroblasts to synthesize DNA and proliferate. Each of the four different extracts of small intestinal submucosa had measurable cell-stimulating activity when analyzed in both a whole cell proliferation assay (alamarBlue dye reduction) and a DNA synthesis assay ([3H]-thymidine incorporation). Proteins extracted from SIS with 2 M urea induced activity profiles in the two assays which were very similar to the activity profiles of basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) in the assays. As well, the changes in cell morphology in response to the extracted proteins mimicked the changes induced by FGF-2. Neutralization experiments with specific antibodies to this growth factor confirmed the presence of FGF-2 and indicated that it was responsible for 60% of the fibroblast-stimulating activity of the urea extract of small intestinal submucosa. Western blot analysis with a monoclonal antibody specific for FGF-2 detected a reactive doublet at approximately 19 kDa and further confirmed the presence of FGF-2. Cell stimulating activity of proteins extracted from SIS with 4 M guanidine was neutralized by an antibody specific for transforming growth factor beta (TGF beta). Changes in the morphology of the fibroblasts exposed to this extract were nearly identical to changes induced by TGF beta. Although no reactive protein band was detected at 25 kDa in nonreduced western blot analysis, several bands were reactive at higher molecular weight. The identity of this TGF beta-related component of small intestinal submucosa is unknown. Identification of FGF-2 and TGF beta-related activities in SIS, two growth factors known to significantly affect critical processes of tissue development and differentiation, provides the opportunity to further elucidate the mechanisms by which this extracellular matrix biomaterial modulates wound healing and tissue remodeling.