The epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor pathway is an important mediator of keratinocyte growth in vitro and both receptor and ligand components of this pathway are abnormally expressed in hyperproliferative epidermis. The purpose of this study was to examine interactions between the EGF receptor pathway and the insulin-like growth factor I/somatomedin C (IGF-I) receptor pathway in modulating the growth of cultured normal human keratinocytes. Short-term growth of keratinocytes in a chemically defined medium demonstrated that neither EGF nor IGF-I alone could support significant keratinocyte spreading or proliferation, but that a combination of EGF with IGF-I or high-dose insulin could. IGF-I or high-dose insulin transmodulates keratinocyte EGF receptor expression via the IGF-I receptor in a dose- and time-dependent manner, increasing EGF receptor binding an average of 1.8 times up to a maximum of fourfold without altering EGF binding affinity. Staining of normal human epidermis with an IGF-I receptor specific monoclonal antibody demonstrates that IGF-I receptors localize to the basal proliferative cell compartment, suggesting that IGF-I receptor and EGF receptor pathway interactions may play a role in the regulation of epidermal growth and in the pathogenesis of hyperproliferative skin diseases.