Transgenic mice were developed by injecting a mouse metallothionein promoter-human growth hormone (Mt-hGH) gene fragment into the pronucleus of C57Bl x DBA/2J-f2 or C57Bl x CBA-f2 one cell embryos. Six founder animals with the C57Bl x DBA genetic background grew 1.3-2.2 times larger than littermate controls and had higher levels of hGH in plasma (4.6-279 mU/l). Three of the four female transgenic founders developed malignant papillar adenocarcinomas of mammary origin at 27-43 weeks of age. One male transgenic founder was successfully mated and two of three female transgenic offsprings developed mammary tumors. To examine if the tumor induction was dependent on the strain of mice used the experiments were repeated using animals with different genetic background. Fourteen female hGH transgenic mice from five founder animals were generated using C57Bl x CBA-f2 mice. Thirteen of the animals had elevated levels of hGH in plasma (7-1960 mU/l) and grew larger than control animals. Nine of the animals developed mammary adenocarcinomas. Four of the hGH expressing animals did not demonstrate macroscopic tumor formation but have not yet been analyzed histologically. The present study suggests that markedly elevated endogenous levels of GH cause mammary carcinoma in hGH transgenic mice. The present animal model might prove useful for studying molecular mechanisms involved in the development of hormonally induced mammary tumors.