1. The direct epithelial effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF) and its modulation by intestinal trefoil factor (ITF) have been studied in a human colonic adenocarcinoma cell line called Colony-29 (Col-29). 2. When grown in culture as confluent monolayers and voltage-clamped in Ussing chambers, these epithelia responded with an increase in short circuit current (SCC) to basolateral as well as to apically applied EGF although the latter responses (at 10 nM) were only 25% of those observed following basolateral peptide. 3. Recombinant rat ITF (added to the basolateral surface) did not alter basal SCC levels, but it did enhance the electrogenic effects of basolateral EGF. The EC50 values for EGF-induced ion transport were 0.25 nM in control, and 0.26 nM in ITF pretreated Col-29 epithelia. A significant increase in the size of EGF responses (0.1 nM-10 nM) was observed in the presence of 10 nM ITF and the half-maximal concentration for this modulatory effect of ITF was 7.6 nM. 4. The EGF-induced increases in SCC were partially inhibited (50%) by piretanide pretreatment, indicating that Cl- secretion is involved. EGF responses either in the presence or absence of ITF were also significantly reduced (84% and 66% respectively) by the cyclo-oxygenase inhibitor, piroxicam, therefore implicating prostaglandins as mediators of EGF-stimulated anion secretion. 5. We conclude that in confluent Col-29 epithelia, basolateral EGF stimulates a predominantly prostaglandin-dependent increase in Cl- secretion that is enhanced by basolateral ITF, and that these two peptides may interact in normal and damaged mucosa to alter the local apical solute and fluid environment.