Biologically active kinin peptides are released from precursor kininogens by kallikreins. Kinins act on kinin receptors to mediate diverse biological functions including smooth muscle contraction, inflammation, pain and mitogenicity. All components of the kallikrein-kinin system exist in human male genital secretions suggesting that these molecules participate in physiological and pathophysiological genitourinary function. The objective of this study was to assess the consequences of kinin action on prostate cells. Primary cultures of prostate secretory epithelial (PE) and prostate fibromuscular stromal (PS) cells were established from human prostate tissue. Transcripts encoding both the human B1 and B2 bradykinin receptor subtypes were detected in human prostate transition-zone tissue and in cultured cells by RT-PCR. In receptor binding assays, the B1 subtype predominated on PE cell membranes and the B2 subtype predominated on PS cell membranes. In PS cells, but not in PE cells, BK induced significant inositol phosphate accumulation and [3H]-thymidine uptake. These responses were mediated through the B2 receptor subtype. The use of signal transduction inhibitors indicated that mitogenic activation by BK occurred through both protein kinase C (PKC) and protein tyrosine kinase dependent mechanisms. PMA (phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate) produced maximal [3H]-thymidine uptake by PS cells, resulted in cell elongation and caused the alpha-actin fibres present in PS smooth muscle cells to became organized into parallel arrays along the length of the elongated cells. In summary, the prostate contains a functional kallikrein-kinin system, which could be significant in physiological and pathophysiological prostate function.