Thirteen endothelial cell growth factors have been purified to homogeneity by heparin affinity and reversed-phase high performance liquid chromatography, and their chromatographic and electrophoretic properties were compared. The amino acid compositions of 10 of these mitogens have also been determined. The results indicate that these heparin-binding growth factors (HBGFs) can be subdivided into two classes. Class 1 HBGFs are anionic mitogens of molecular weight 15,000-17,000 found in high levels in neural tissue and include acidic brain fibroblast growth factor and retina-derived growth factor. Class 2 HBGFs are cationic mitogens of molecular weight 18,000-20,000 found in a variety of normal tissues and are typified by pituitary fibroblast growth factor and cartilage-derived growth factor. Typical class 2 HBGFs have also been isolated from a rat chondrosarcoma, a human melanoma, and a human hepatoma, suggesting that tumors do not make a structurally distinct HBGF class. These results provide a sound basis for the evaluation of the HBGFs purified from a variety of tissues and species and for the delineation of their normal and pathological functions in vivo.