Fibroblast growth factor 5 (FGF-5) is a member of the fibroblast growth factor family with transforming potential. It has been found to be expressed in several human tumor cell lines, but nothing is known about expression of this growth factor in normal cells and its biological functions. Here we show that the FGF-5 gene is expressed in exponentially growing normal human fibroblasts. In quiescent fibroblasts, expression of FGF-5 is strongly induced by serum and several growth factors such as platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF) and transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha). This induction can be mediated by at least two different pathways involving protein kinase C or cAMP-dependent kinases. Since the effect is independent of de novo protein synthesis, FGF-5 represents the product of a primary response gene. In addition our data suggest that FGF-5 is mitogenic for human fibroblasts, indicating the existence of an FGF-5-mediated positive feedback in these cells which could amplify and prolong the cellular response to the initial stimulus.