ADP-ribosylation has been coupled to intracellular events associated with smooth muscle cell vasoreactivity, cytoskeletal integrity and free radical damage. Additionally, there is evidence that ADP-ribosylation is required for smooth muscle cell proliferation. Our investigation employed selective inhibitors to establish that mono-ADP-ribosylation and not poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation was necessary for the stimulation of DNA synthesis by mitogens. Mitogen treatment increased concomitantly the activity of both soluble and particulate mono-ADP-ribosyltransferase, as well as the number of modified proteins. Inclusion of meta-iodobenzylguanidine (MIBG), a selective decoy substrate of arginine-dependent mono-ADP-ribosylation, prevented the modification of these proteins. MIBG also blocked the stimulation of DNA and RNA synthesis, prevented smooth muscle cell migration and suppressed the induction of c-fos and c-myc gene expression. An examination of relevant signal transduction pathways showed that MIBG did not interfere with MAP kinase and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase stimulation; however, it did inhibit phosphorylation of the Rho effector, PRK1/2. This novel observation suggests that mono-ADP-ribosylation participates in a Rho- dependent signalling pathway that is required for immediate early gene expression.