Pharmacological doses of pentagastrin or gastrin are known to stimulate cell proliferation in normal colonic epithelium but the growth-promoting effect of gastrin on colon carcinoma is still controversial. In this study morphological parameters were measured to study the effect of pentagastrin (240 micrograms/kg) on the cell proliferation kinetics in experimental tumours. Colon cancer was produced in rats by weekly injections (20 mg/kg b.wt.) of 1.2-dimethylhydrazine for 24 weeks. Tritiated thymidine was given after administration of pentagastrin or the control solution to the animals. 75% of the animals from the pentagastrin group and 66% of the controls had at least one colon cancer. Autoradiographs of the colonic tumors were performed and the percentage of labeled cells in the cancer cell population was determined after counting 4000 to 16,000 cancer cells per tumor. The labeling index for cancer cells in the pentagastrin-treated group (21.49 +/- 1.76%) was higher (P less than 0.01) than in the control group (14.76 +/- 0.66%). In a second study vincristine sulphate (1 mg/kg) was given to the animals 20 h after administering pentagastrin or the control solution. The percentage of arrested metaphases in the tumours was determined after counting 10,000 to 24,000 cancer cells per histological section. Pentagastrin increased (P less than 0.01) the mean metaphase index by 108% (4.9 +/- 0.44% vs 2.35 +/- 0.32%). These data indicate that cell cycle manipulation of colon cancer is possible with hormonal peptides.