We recently developed a primary culture system for gastric epithelial cells from adult rabbits that allows the investigation of growth regulation at the cellular level. In this study, we demonstrated that epidermal growth factor (EGF), insulin, and dibutyryl adenosine 3',5'-cyclic monophosphate (dBcAMP) all stimulated cell proliferation. Insulin and dBcAMP potentiated the stimulation of cell proliferation by EGF, while transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta 1) inhibited it. Expression of c-fos and c-myc was induced in response to the stimulation by these growth regulators, but the degree of expression did not necessarily correlate with the effects of these agents on cell proliferation. In conclusion, EGF, insulin, and dBcAMP were positive growth regulators, while TGF-beta 1 was a negative regulator in gastric epithelial cells. These growth modulators may exert their effects by distinct pathways from a standpoint of the expression of c-fos and c-myc.