The mitogenic activity of several growth factors on androgen responsive LNCaP human prostate tumor cells was studied. A two-fold stimulation of cell proliferation was observed after a culture period of 6 days in 1 ng EGF/ml, 10 ng TGF-alpha/ml or 20 ng basic FGF/ml. TGF-beta (0.02 ng/ml), which did not affect cell proliferation when added alone to the culture medium, inhibited the EGF- and TGF-alpha-induced growth. The synthetic androgen R1881 (0.1 nM) stimulated cell proliferation three-fold and increased the number of EGF receptors from 11500 to 28500 sites/cell. One of the mechanisms involved in androgen action on these cells is therefore an increased EGF receptor expression and increased sensitivity to EGF. TGF-beta did not directly affect androgen-responsive growth but inhibited the synergistic effect of EGF. A considerable expression of TGF alpha (precursors) could be demonstrated on the cells by immunohistochemical staining. However the staining intensity was not affected by androgens. These results make it less likely that androgen-responsive growth is mediated by regulation of secretion of an EGF- or TGF alpha-like activity, which in turn acts in an autocrine manner to stimulate growth. Estrogens, progestagens and antiandrogens do not inhibit androgen responsive growth of LNCaP cells but have striking growth stimulatory effects, increase EGF receptor level and increase acid phosphatase secretion. LNCaP cells contain a modified androgen receptor system with respect to both steroid specificity and antiandrogen sensitivity. It has recently been shown that the stimulatory effects are due to a mutated amino acid in the steroid binding domain of the androgen receptor.