Abnormal accumulation of connective tissue in blood vessels contributes to alterations in vascular physiology associated with disease states such as hypertension and atherosclerosis. Elastin synthesis was studied in blood vessels from newborn calves with severe pulmonary hypertension induced by alveolar hypoxia in order to investigate the cellular stimuli that elicit changes in pulmonary arterial connective tissue production. A two- to fourfold increase in elastin production was observed in pulmonary artery tissue and medial smooth muscle cells from hypertensive calves. This stimulation of elastin production was accompanied by a corresponding increase in elastin messenger RNA consistent with regulation at the transcriptional level. Conditioned serum harvested from cultures of pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells isolated from hypertensive animals contained one or more low molecular weight elastogenic factors that stimulated the production of elastin in both fibroblasts and smooth muscle cells and altered the chemotactic responsiveness of fibroblasts to elastin peptides. These results suggest that connective tissue changes in the pulmonary vasculature in response to pulmonary hypertension are orchestrated by the medial smooth muscle cell through the generation of specific differentiation factors that alter both the secretory phenotype and responsive properties of surrounding cells.