The effect of beta-alanyl-L-histidinato zinc (AHZ) on protein components in osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells was investigated. Cells were cultured for 3 days at 37 degrees C in CO2 incubator in plastic dishes containing alpha-modified minimum essential medium supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum. After the cultures, the medium was exchanged for that containing 0.1% bovine serum albumin plus various concentrations of AHZ or other reagents, and the cells were cultured further 3 or 6 days. The homgenate of cells was analyzed with SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE). The presence of AHZ (10(-7) to 10(-5) M) caused an appreciable increase of many protein components in cells. Especially, the 67 killo-dalton (kDa) and 44 kDa proteins which are the major components from control cells were clearly increased by the presence of AHZ. Furthermore, the concentrations of osteocalcin, insulin-like growth factor-I and transforming growth factor-beta in the culture medium secreted from osteoblastic cells were markedly increased by the presence of AHZ (10(-6) and 10(-5) M). The effect of AHZ was a greater than that of zinc sulfate (10(-6) and 10(-5) M). The present findings suggest that AHZ can increase many proteins which are involved in the stimulation of bone formation and cell proliferation in osteoblastic cells.