Epidermal growth factor receptors (EGF-R) were measured in adult male and female mouse primary hepatocyte cultures. On culture day 1, female hepatocytes had significantly fewer EGF-R than male hepatocytes (1.3 x 10(4) versus 6.2 x 10(5) per cell). Over the next three days, morphological changes consistent with progressive heptocyte dedifferentiation were observed. During this period, EGF-R numbers progressively increased in female cultures and decreased in male cultures, and by day 4 the sexual difference in EGF-R numbers was obliterated. These results indicate that a relationship exists between the degree of differentiation in hepatocyte cultures and the expression of EGF-R on the cell surface.