Several lines of correlative evidence link transforming growth factor alpha (Tgfa, also known as TGF-alpha) to proliferative activity in jejunal crypt cells. It is therefore tempting to hypothesize that, as a ligand of the epidermal growth factor, it mediates the compensatory proliferative burst in the crypts after radiation-induced cell killing. We have tested this hypothesis by comparing the repopulation response of wild-type and Tgfa-null mice, using the microcolony assay. Mice were exposed whole-body to (137)Cs gamma rays at a dose of approximately 1.6 Gy/min. Single doses and equal doses separated by 4 and 54 h were given. The rightward shift of the dose-response curves for 54 h was identical for wild-type and Tgfa-null mice, and there was no indication of a difference in radiosensitivity. This result indicates that Tgfa is not an essential component of the proliferative response of tissue to radiation-induced cell killing.