Three cancer cell lines, IMC-2, IMC-3 and IMC-4, were established from a single tumor of a patient with maxillary cancer. We examined responses to epidermal growth factor (EGF) of these 3 cell lines with regard to cell growth and tumor invasion. The growth rate of IMC-2 in nude mice was markedly faster than that of the IMC-3 and IMC-4 cell lines. Assay for invasion through fibrin gels showed significantly enhanced invasive capacity of IMC-2 cells in response to EGF, but no change for IMC-3 and IMC-4 cells. We examined response to EGF of IMC-2 cells with regard to expression of a growth-related oncogene (c-fos), proteinases and their inhibitors. Expression of c-fos was transiently increased in IMC-2 cells at rates comparable to those seen in the 2 other lines in the presence of EGF. There was no apparent effect of EGF on the expression of urokinase-type plasminogen activator and 72-kDa type-IV collagenase in IMC-2 cells. In contrast, EGF specifically enhanced the expression of plasminogen activator inhibitor-I (PAI-I) and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-I (TIMP-I) in IMC-2 cells. Our data suggest that proteinase inhibitors or other related factors may play an important role in tumor growth and invasion in response to EGF.