Epidermal growth factor (EGF) binds with high affinity and specificity to a single site on the external domain of its transmembrane receptor to activate the tyrosine protein kinase activity of its cytoplasmic portion. The EGF receptor gene is amplified and over-expressed in several human tumors, suggesting that increased concentrations of the proto-oncogene leads to constitutive activity similar to that seen with oncogene erb B. Synthesis and degradation of the EGF receptor are regulated, in addition, covalent modification by phosphorylation regulates activity of the receptor protein. Intramolecular self-phosphorylation of Tyr1173 removes a competitive inhibitory constraint to enhance phosphorylation of substrates. Phosphorylation of Thr654 by protein kinase C decreases high affinity EGF binding and EGF-stimulated tyrosine protein kinase activity, providing a mechanism for heterologous regulation of the EGF receptor by tumor promoters and other ligand X receptor complexes. Extensive regulation contributes to normal growth control, abrogation of regulatory controls contributes to uncontrolled growth as seen with erb B transformation and EGF receptor gene amplification in human tumors.