Expression of the c-erbB-2 proto-oncogene is inhibited by oestrogens in oestrogen-responsive human breast cancer cells, at both mRNA and protein level. Here we report that, where the regulation of c-erbB-2 is concerned, tamoxifen displays a full anti-oestrogenic activity, enhancing the expression of c-erbB-2 in oestrogen receptor-positive cells cultured with untreated fetal calf serum or reversing the inhibitory effect of added oestrogens. Meanwhile, tamoxifen strongly inhibited cell growth. Tamoxifen was inactive on both c-erbB-2 expression and growth of oestrogen receptor-negative cells. These results may have important implications to explain occasional failure of tamoxifen therapy in oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancers.