Nonesterified fatty acids are acutely liberated during lipolysis and are chronically elevated in pathological conditions such as insulin resistance, hypertension, and obesity, which are known risk factors for atherosclerosis. The present study was designed to investigate the effects of oleic acid (OA), an 18-carbon cis-monosaturated fatty acid on proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC). Incubation of a rat VSMC (A10 cells) with OA (50 μM) resulted in an increase of cells entering the S phase of the cell cycle. In consistent with the effects on cell cycle distribution, OA stimulated VSMC proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. The mitogenic effect of OA was significantly reduced by pretreatment of LY294002 (5 μM) or wortmannin (1 μM), potent, and specific inhibitors of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K). OA also induced activation of Akt/protein kinase B (PKB) in a time-dependent manner. OA-induced activation of Akt/PKB was inhibited by either LY294002 or wortmannin. Taken together, these experiments show that the enhanced phosphorylation of Akt/PKB by OA is dependent on PI3K and suggest that this signaling event may be important for the regulation of OA-induced VSMC proliferation.