Platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) was originally identified in platelets and in serum as a mitogen for fibroblasts, smooth muscle cells (SMC) and glia cells in culture. PDGF has since expanded to a family of dimers of at least four gene products, whose biological actions are mediated through two receptor tyrosine kinases, PDGFRs. The present review summarizes and discusses the biological functions of PDGFs and PDGFRs in developmental processes, mainly as revealed through genetic analysis in mice. Such studies have demonstrated multiple critical roles of PDGFs and PDGFRs in embryonic and postnatal development. PDGFs seem to act upon specific populations of progenitor cells that give rise to several different cell types with distinct functions in a variety of developmental processes. Analogies are seen between the cell functions and the developmental processes controlled by PDGFs. This suggests that ancestral PDGF and PDGFR expression patterns and functions may have been iterated in related sets of morphogenetic processes in the course of evolution. BioEssays 23:494–507, 2001. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.