The c-erbB-2 proto-oncogene encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) closely related to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Overexpression of erbB-2 occurs in approximately 20% of human breast tumours, where increased expression correlates with poor patient prognosis. The EGFR is coupled to the Ras signalling pathway by interaction with the adaptor protein Grb2, and Sos, a Ras GDP-GTP exchange factor. In this study, activation of the erbB-2 receptor and its association with Grb2 and Sos was investigated in breast cancer cell lines which overexpress erbB-2. The receptor was found to be tyrosine phosphorylated in all cell lines in which it is overexpressed. Western blotting of Grb2 and Sos immuneprecipitates from such cells revealed co-precipitation of erbB-2, demonstrating association of the Grb2/Sos complex with erbB-2 in vivo. Furthermore, a fusion protein containing only the SH2 domain of Grb2 bound to erbB-2 immobilized on nitrocellulose, indicating that association with Grb2 is direct and mediated by the SH2 domain of Grb2. The degree of association between the erbB-2 receptor and Grb2 in vivo was related to erbB-2 overexpression, and MAP kinase, which functions downstream from Ras, displayed markedly increased activity in cell lines overexpressing erbB-2. These results demonstrate that erbB-2 is coupled to Ras signalling via the Grb2/Sos complex, and that overexpression of this receptor in breast cancer cells leads to amplification of the Ras signalling pathway.