The transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) family of cytokines regulates vascular development and inflammatory responses. We have recently shown that exposure of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) to hypoxia (1% O2) increases gene expression and bioactivation of TGF-β2 and induces its downstream effectors, Smad proteins (Smads), to associate with DNA. In the present study, we show that hypoxia-induced TGF-β2 gene expression is dependent on thrombospondin-1-mediated bioactivation of latent TGF-β. Blocking TGF-β2 but not TGF-β1 in hypoxic endothelial cell cultures inhibited induction of the TGF-β2 gene, indicating that an autocrine mechanism driven by bioactivation of TGF-β2 leads to its gene expression in hypoxic HUVECs. Exposure of HUVECs to hypoxia resulted in phosphorylation and nuclear transportation of Smad2 and Smad3 proteins as well as stimulation of transcriptional activities of Smad3 and the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor-1α and culminated in up-regulation of TGF-β2 gene expression. Autocrine regulation of TGF-β2 production in hypoxia may involve cross-talk between Smad3 and HIF-1α signaling pathways, and could be an important mechanism by which endothelial cells respond to hypoxic stress. © 2003 by The American Society of Hematology.