Gentiana lutea belonging to the Gentianaceae family of flowering plants are routinely used in traditional Serbian medicine for their beneficial gastro-intestinal and anti-inflammatory properties. The aim of the study was to determine whether aqueous root extracts of Gentiana lutea consisting of gentiopicroside, gentisin, bellidifolin-8-O-glucoside, demethylbellidifolin-8-O-glucoside, isovitexin, swertiamarin and amarogentin prevents proliferation of aortic smooth muscle cells in response to PDGF-BB. Cell proliferation and cell cycle analysis were performed based on alamar blue assay and propidium iodide labeling respectively. In primary cultures of rat aortic smooth muscle cells (RASMCs), PDGF-BB (20 ng/ml) induced a two-fold increase in cell proliferation which was significantly blocked by the root extract (1 mg/ml). The root extract also prevented the S-phase entry of synchronized cells in response to PDGF. Furthermore, PDGF-BB induced ERK1/2 activation and consequent increase in cellular nitric oxide (NO) levels were also blocked by the extract. These effects of extract were due to blockade of PDGF-BB induced expression of iNOS, cyclin D1 and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). Docking analysis of the extract components on MEK1, the upstream ERK1/2 activating kinase using AutoDock4, indicated a likely binding of isovitexin to the inhibitor binding site of MEK1. Experiments performed with purified isovitexin demonstrated that it successfully blocks PDGF-induced ERK1/2 activation and proliferation of RASMCs in cell culture. Thus, Gentiana lutea can provide novel candidates for prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis. © 2013 Kesavan et al.