The ulceration-associated cell lineage (UACL) develops in the human gastrointestinal mucosa after ulceration; it grows out from the bases of adjacent crypts and ramifies in the lamina propria to form a new gland, finally giving rise to a duct by which the glandular secretion and indeed cells are carried to the surface. Using immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization with 35S-labelled riboprobes, we have defined the pattern of trefoil peptide gene expression (pS2; human spasmolytic polypeptide, hSP), epidermal growth factor/urogastrone (EGF/URO), and the distribution of cell proliferation during the development of the UACL, as indicated by immunostaining for proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). Our studies reveal that the morphogenesis of the UACL shows a marked morphological resemblance to developing Brunner's glands; the pattern of trefoil peptide gene expression during UACL development is also very similar. However, trefoil peptide gene expression in the mature UACL complex is unique amongst gastrointestinal cells. The mature UACL shows a distinctive proliferative organization: while the early buds and glands are non-proliferative, apparently being fed by cells from the parent crypts, a definitive proliferative zone develops within the duct. This, of course, corresponds to the location of the gastric gland proliferative zone. We propose that while the UACL shows novel features, it shares its differentiation programme with Brunner's glands, but its pattern of cell renewal eventually is that of the gastric gland.