Epidermal growth factor (EGF) is a mitogenic polypeptide, which was first isolated from mouse submaxillary gland. Since EGF also stimulates the growth of corneal epithelial cells and only preliminary data exist on its presence in tear fluid, we studied the occurrence of human EGF (hEGF) in the tear fluid of 36 healthy persons (31 women and 5 men from 20 to 59 years of age; 60 eyes). hEGF, as measured by an immunofluorometric assay, was present in all tear fluid samples investigated. Its concentration varied from 200 to 2860 pg/ml (median, 705 pg/ml). The tear fluid hEGF concentrations differed less between the eyes of one individual than between individuals. The total amount of hEGF released to the tear fluid increased with fluid flow, but the higher the flow was, the lower the concentration of hEGF. We could not find any evidence of sex dependency in the hEGF concentrations. In demonstrating that hEGF is a normal component of human tear fluid, the results of this study suggest that hEGF may be important for conjunctival and corneal epithelial integrity.