Progression to increased malignancy frequently occurs in human brain tumors of glial origin and usually involves neovascularization--a massive proliferation of endothelial cells into the tumor tissue. We have shown previously that subversion of a normal growth factor-related pathway is frequently associated with human gliomas. Here we show that human glioma cell lines express the gene encoding the angiogenic peptide endothelial cell growth factor (ECGF) or acidic fibroblast growth factor (a-FGF) and that an ECGF-like polypeptide is produced by these cells. The glioma-derived growth factor was partially purified from cell extracts by heparin-Sepharose affinity chromatography where it eluted at 1.5 M sodium chloride. On reversed-phase h.p.l.c., growth factor activity for endothelial cells was eluted at the same concentration of acetonitrile as found for bovine brain-ECGF, also a potent mitogen for endothelial cells. Moreover, human glioma cells possess specific cell surface receptors for ECGF and are mitogenically stimulated by exogenous addition of this growth factor. Glioma derived-ECGF may therefore have a dual influence first, by autocrine growth-stimulation of human gliomas and, second, by paracrine-stimulation of endothelial cell proliferation which results in neovascularization of the tumor tissue.