Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is a mitogenic and chemotactic factor for cultured fibroblasts that has been implicated in wound healing, fibrotic disorders and uterine function. Although the primary translational products of the mouse, human and pig CTGF (mCTGF, hCTGF, pCTGF) genes are predicted to be secreted and of approximate M(r) 38,000, 10 kDa biologically active forms of pCTGF have recently been described. In this report, we show that human foreskin fibroblasts (HFFs) and mouse connective tissue fibroblasts contained 2.4 kb CTGF transcripts, stained positively with an anti-CTGF[81-94] peptide antiserum, and produced a 38 kDa protein that was immunoprecipitated by an anti-CTGF[247-260] peptide antiserum. While 38 kDa CTGF was readily detected in cell lysates, it was non- or barely detectable in conditioned medium. 38 kDa CTGF remained cell-associated for at least 5 days after synthesis and was not releasable by treatment of the cells with trypsin, heparin, 1 M NaCl or low pH. Purification of CTGF from human or mouse fibroblast conditioned medium resulted in the isolation of 10-12 kDa CTGF proteins that were heparin-binding, bioactive, and reactive with anti-CTGF[247-260] on Western blots. Whereas 10 kDa CTGF stimulated DNA synthesis in 3T3 cells to the same extent as platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-AA, -AB, or -BB, it did not compete with 125I-PDGF-BB for binding to alpha alpha, alpha beta or beta beta PDGF receptors (PDGF-R), did not stimulate tyrosine phosphorylation of PDGF-alpha-R or -beta-R, and was not antagonized by a neutralizing PDGF-R-alpha antiserum. These data show that, in cultured fibroblasts, 38 kDa CTGF is principally cell-associated whereas low mass forms of CTGF are soluble and biologically active. They further demonstrate that, contrary to the previously proposed properties of 38 kDa CTGF, 10 kDa CTGF does not bind to PDGF-R and stimulates Balb/c 3T3 cell mitosis via a PDGF-R-independent mechanism.