Epidermal growth factor (EGF) has widespread growth effects, and in some tissues proliferation is associated with the nuclear localization of EGF and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). In the thyroid, EGF promotes growth but differs from thyrotropin (TSH) in inhibiting rather than stimulating functional parameters. We have therefore studied the occurrence and cellular distribution of EGF and EGFR in normal thyroid, in Graves' disease, where growth is mediated through the thyrotropin receptor (TSHR), and in a variety of human thyroid tumors. In the normal gland the staining was variable, but largely cytoplasmic, for both EGF and EGFR. In Graves' disease there was strong cytoplasmic staining for both EGF and EGFR, with frequent positive nuclei. Nuclear positivity for EGF and particularly for EGFR was also a feature of both follicular adenomas and follicular carcinomas. Interestingly, nuclear staining was almost absent in papillary carcinomas. These findings document for the first time the presence of nuclear EGF and EGFR in thyroid. Their predominant occurrence in tissues with increased growth (Graves' disease, follicular adenoma, and carcinoma) may indicate that nuclear EGF and EGFR play a role in growth regulation in these conditions. The absence of nuclear EGF and EGFR in papillary carcinomas would suggest that the role played by EGF in growth control differs between papillary carcinoma and follicular adenomas/carcinomas of the thyroid.