Keratinocyte growth factor (KGF) is a potent and specific mitogen for epithelial cells, including the keratinocytes of the skin. We investigated the mechanisms of action of KGF by searching for genes which are regulated by this growth factor in cultured human keratinocytes. Using the differential display RT-PCR technology we identified the gene encoding adenylosuccinate lyase [EC 126.96.36.199] as a novel KGF-regulated gene. Adenylosuccinate lyase plays an important role in purine de novo synthesis. To gain further insight into the potential role of nucleotide biosynthesis in the mitogenic effect of KGF, we cloned cDNA fragments of the key regulatory enzymes involved in purine and pyrimidine metabolism (adenylosuccinate synthetase [EC 188.8.131.52], phosphoribosyl pyrophosphate synthetase [EC 184.108.40.206], amidophosphoribosyl transferase [EC 220.127.116.11], hypoxanthine guanine phosphoribosyl transferase [EC 18.104.22.168] and the multifunctional protein CAD which includes the enzymatic activities of carbamoyl-phosphate synthetase II [EC 22.214.171.124], aspartate transcarbamylase [EC 126.96.36.199] and dihydroorotase [EC 188.8.131.52]). Expression of all of these enzymes was upregulated after treatment with KGF and also with epidermal growth factor (EGF), indicating that these mitogens stimulate nucleotide production by induction of these enzymes. To determine a possible in vivo correlation between the expression of KGF, EGF and the enzymes mentioned above, we analysed the expression of the enzymes during cutaneous wound repair, where high levels of these mitogens are present. Indeed, we found a strong mRNA expression of all of these enzymes in the EGF- and KGF-responsive keratinocytes of the hyperproliferative epithelium at the wound edge, indicating that their expression might also be regulated by growth factors during wound healing.