Mesangial cell proliferation and extracellular matrix accumulation are fundamental in the pathogenesis of glomerulosclerosis. Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) is a major cytokine involved in mesangial cell proliferation, and its increased expression is seen in glomerular injury. Atherogenic lipoproteins stimulate mesangial cell proliferation and induce glomerular injury in experimental animals. We examined the effect of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and its more atherogenic oxidized forms, minimally modified LDL (mm-LDL) and oxidized LDL (ox-LDL) on mesangial cell PDGF mRNA expression. Incubation with 2.5 to 25 μg/ml LDL or mm-LDL for 1 to 4 hours stimulated mesangial cell PDGF mRNA expression (mm-LDL 2 to 3 times greater than LDL); ox-LDL had no effect. Similarly, both LDL and mm-LDL induced mesangial cell DNA synthesis (mm-LDL 1.5 to 2 times greater). In further studies evaluating key associated intracellular signal transduction mechanisms, the protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) inhibitors herbimycin and genistein markedly decreased basal and lipoprotein-induced PDGF mRNA expression. Both pertussis toxin and isoproterenol, cyclic AMP-generating substances, stimulated PDGF mRNA expression. Preincubation with H-8 or H-89, cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) inhibitors, blocked the lipoprotein-induced PDGF message, whereas preincubation with calphostin C, a protein kinase C inhibitor, did not alter LDL- or mm-LDL-mediated PDGF mRNA expression. These data suggest that the accumulation of atherogenic lipoproteins and their endogenous oxidized forms within the glomerulus may regulate mesangial cell PDGF expression and related cellular responses. These events appear to be modulated by signal transduction pathways involving PTK and PKA.