Phosphotyrosine-containing proteins in various human cancer cell lines were studied by immunoblotting with anti-phosphotyrosine antibody. Of 29 cell lines derived from oral epidermoid cancer, esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma and malignant melanoma, 3 of the 6 gastric cancer cells showed aberrant elevation of tyrosine-specific phosphorylation. On the other hand, both esophageal cancer cells and colon cancer cells, which were reported to have amplified epidermal growth factor receptor and activated p60v-src kinase, respectively, showed no apparent elevation of tyrosine-specific phosphorylation, and their profiles of phosphorylation were similar to that of normal human fibroblasts. Two gastric cancer cells, NUGC-4 and MKN-45, showed similar profiles of phosphorylation but their responses to growth factors differed from each other. Tyrosine phosphorylation in NUGC-4 was strongly activated by treatment with epidermal growth factor and quickly reduced by the acid treatment which is effective in removing growth factors from cellular surface receptors. On the contrary, phosphorylation in MKN-45 did not respond to either growth factor or acid treatment. These results suggest that NUGC-4 and MKN-45 have tyrosine kinases which are activated by different mechanisms but share similar substrates.