Keratinocyte growth factor (KGF) is a member of the heparin-binding fibroblast growth factor family (FGF-7) with a distinctive pattern of target-cell specificity. Studies performed in cell culture suggested that KGF was mitogenically active only on epithelial cells, albeit from a variety of tissues. In contrast, KGF was produced solely by cells of mesenchymal origin, leading to the hypothesis that it might function as a paracrine mediator of mesenchymal-epithelial communication. Biochemical analysis and molecular cloning established that the KGF receptor (KGFR) was a tyrosine kinase isoform encoded by the fgfr-2 gene. Many detailed investigations of KGF and KGFR expression in whole tissue and cell lines largely substantiated the pattern initially perceived in vitro of mesenchymal and epithelial distribution, respectively. Moreover, functional assays in organ culture and in vivo and studies of KGF regulation by sex steroid hormones reinforced the idea that KGF acts predominantly on epithelial cells to elicit a variety of responses including proliferation, migration and morphogenesis.