Diverse extracellular stimuli activate the ERK1/2 MAPK cascade by transactivating epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptors. Here, we have examined the role of EGF receptors in IGF-I-stimulated ERK1/2 activation in several cultured cell lines. In human embryonic kidney 293 cells, IGF-I triggered proteolysis of heparin binding (HB)-EGF, increased tyrosine autophosphorylation of EGF receptors, stimulated EGF receptor inhibitor (AG1478)-sensitive ERK1/2 phosphorylation, and promoted EGF receptor endocytosis. In a mixed culture system that employed IGF-I receptor null murine embryo fibroblasts (MEFs) (R(-) cells) to detect paracrine signals produced by MEFs expressing the human IGF-I receptor (R(+) cells), stimulation of R(+) cells provoked rapid activation of green fluorescent protein-tagged ERK2 in cocultured R(-) cells. The R(-) cell response was abolished by either the broad-spectrum matrix metalloprotease inhibitor batimastat or by AG1478, indicating that it resulted from the proteolytic generation of an EGF receptor ligand from adjacent R(+) cells. These data suggest that the paracrine production of EGF receptor ligands leading to EGF receptor transactivation is a general property of IGF-I receptor signaling. In contrast, the contribution of transactivated EGF receptors to IGF-I-stimulated downstream events, such as ERK1/2 activation, varies in a cell type-dependent manner.