Multiple studies have shown that migration, proliferation, and differentiation of oligodendrocyte (OL) lineage cells are influenced by fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) signaling through its receptors (FGFR) FGFR-1, FGFR-2, and FGFR-3. We report the effectiveness and specificity of a unique inhibitor, PD173074, for inhibiting FGF receptor signaling in OL-lineage cells. Three FGF-mediated responses of OL progenitors and two of differentiated OLs were examined by immunofluorescence microscopy and immunoblotting. PD173074 effectively antagonized the effect of FGF-2 on proliferation and differentiation of OL progenitors in culture. One dose of PD173074 at nanomolar concentrations was sufficient to inhibit ongoing FGF-2 mediated proliferation for prolonged periods, in a non-toxic, dose-dependent manner. In contrast, platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-induced proliferation was unaffected by PD173074. Similarly, mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation, a downstream event after activation of either FGFR or PDGFR, was also blocked by PD173074 in OL progenitors stimulated with FGF-2 but not PDGF. A general tyrosine kinase inhibitor (PD166285), however, antagonized both FGF-2- and PDGF-mediated responses. PD173074 also completely antagonized two phenotypic alterations of differentiated OLs, specifically downregulation of myelin proteins, and their re-entry into the cell cycle. We conclude that PD173704 is an effective and specific inhibitor for multiple FGF-2-mediated responses of both OL progenitors and differentiated OLs. This inhibitor provides a direct approach for identifying the importance of FGF signaling, comparable in effect to a knockout of all FGF receptors and all FGF ligands, while leaving other pathways unaffected. Thus, PD173704 is an excellent tool for investigating the role of FGF signaling in vivo in the context of combinatorial interactions of other signals. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.