We measured the in vitro protein-tyrosine kinase activity of pp60c-src from human colon carcinoma cell lines and tumors. The activity of pp60c-src from six of nine carcinoma cell lines was higher (on average, fivefold as measured by enolase phosphorylation, or eightfold as measured by autophosphorylation) than that of pp60c-src from normal colonic mucosal cells, or human or rodent fibroblasts. Similarly, the activity of pp60c-src from 13 of 21 primary colon carcinomas was five- or sevenfold higher than that of pp60c-src from normal colonic mucosa adjacent to the tumor. The increased pp60c-src activity did not result solely from an increase in the level of pp60c-src protein, suggesting the specific activity of the pp60c-src kinase is elevated in the tumor cells. pp60c-src from colon carcinoma cells and normal colonic mucosal cells was phosphorylated at similar sites. We used immunoblotting with antibodies to phosphotyrosine to identify substrates of protein-tyrosine kinases in colonic cells. Three phosphotyrosine-containing proteins were detected at significantly higher levels in most colon carcinoma cell lines than in normal colonic mucosal cells or human or rat fibroblasts. All colon carcinoma cell lines with elevated pp60c-src in vitro kinase activity, showed increased phosphorylation of proteins on tyrosine in vivo, suggesting the presence of an activated protein-tyrosine kinase(s).