Human amnion cells in primary culture respond to glucocorticoids in a characteristic fashion by the increased expression of the inducible prostaglandin endoperoxide H synthase isoenzyme, PGHS-2. Since PGHS-2 induction by agonists generally involves tyrosine kinases, we examined the possibility that the glucocorticoid stimulation of PGHS-2 in the amnion cells is tyrosine kinase dependent. PGHS-2 expression was stimulated in confluent, serum-starved amnion cells with dexamethasone, and the effect of the tyrosine kinase inhibitors herbimycin A and tyrphostins AG126, AG1288, and A1 on enzyme activity induction was determined. All four inhibitors blocked the increase of PGHS activity in a concentration-dependent manner with IC50 values of 0.077 +/- 0.05, 15.38 +/- 5.14, 20.91 +/- 3.1, and 29.77 +/- 8.21 microM, respectively (mean +/- SE, n = 4). Dexamethasone increased (approximately twofold) the tyrosine phosphorylation of 120-, 110-, and 77-kDa proteins in cell extracts, and herbimycin A selectively blocked the phosphorylation of the 110-kDa phosphoprotein. The stimulation of the steady-state level of PGHS-2 mRNA by dexamethasone was also inhibited by herbimycin A. These results suggest that glucocorticoids induce PGHS-2 expression in amnion cells with the involvement of tyrosine kinase(s). The role of tyrosine kinase dependent mechanisms in the control of amnion cell responsiveness to corticosteroids remains to be established.