Human peripheral blood monocytes responded to stimulation of platelet-activating factor (PAF) with up-regulation of the transcript for heparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor (HB-EGF), a potent mitogen for vascular smooth muscle cells. This function of PAF was observed at nanomolar concentrations of the ligand, starting at 30 min after stimulation. The PAF-induced up-regulation of HB-EGF mRNA was accompanied by an increase in kappa B binding activity. These functions of PAF appeared to be mediated through the cell surface PAF receptors, as two PAF receptor antagonists, WEB 2086 and L-659,989, blocked both the up-regulation of HB-EGF mRNA and kappa B binding activity induced by PAF. The antagonists, however, had no effect on phorbol ester-induced up-regulation of HB-EGF mRNA and kappa B binding activity. Pretreatment of monocytes with pertussis toxin inhibited these functions of PAF, whereas cholera toxin had no inhibitory effect. Pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate, an inhibitor for NF-kappa B activation, markedly reduced PAF-stimulated kappa B binding activity as well as up-regulation of HB-EGF mRNA. These results suggest a potential role of PAF in HB-EGF expression and provide evidence that this stimulation may occur through increased kappa B binding activity.