Uncontrolled cell growth is at the basis of neoplastic proliferation and arteriosclerotic lesions. In vitro proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells, Balb c/3T3 fibroblasts, retinal neuroepithelial cells and neuroblastoma cells is inhibited by d-alpha-tocopherol. On the contrary Chinese hamster ovary cells, osteosarcoma cells and macrophages are not sensitive. PDGF-BB activated proliferation is highly d-alpha-tocopherol sensitive while lysophosphatidic acid induced growth is poorly inhibited. d-beta-Tocopherol, an analogue of d-alpha-tocopherol, with similar antioxidant properties, does not inhibit proliferation. Protein kinase C activity is inhibited by d-alpha-tocopherol but not by d-beta-tocopherol, suggesting a central role of this enzyme in the control of cell proliferation by d-alpha-tocopherol. Activation of the transcription activation complex AP-1 (but not NFkappaB) is prevented by d-alpha-tocopherol and not by d-beta-tocopherol.