To investigate the involvement of protein tyrosine kinases (PTKs) in the growth control of mammary epithelial cells, we have used PCR based cloning to identify PTKs expressed in a mouse mammary epithelial cell line. This approach led to the isolation of two receptor PTKs of the eph-related subfamily; myk-1, a novel member expressed predominantly in lung, heart and mammary gland and myk-2, a close relative of the human eck gene. Northern blot analysis of RNA from mouse mammary glands at different stages of development revealed that myk-1 and myk-2 expression is induced at puberty and differentially regulated during the estrus cycle. myk-1 and myk-2 expression was down-regulated during the pregnancy induced differentiation of the mammary gland. Over-expression of myk-1 and myk-2 was found in the undifferentiated and invasive mammary tumors of transgenic mice expressing the Ha-ras oncogene. In contrast, no elevated expression of either gene could be detected in the well differentiated and non-metastatic mammary tumors of c-myc expressing transgenic mice. These results indicate that myk-1 and myk-2 expression is induced during the proliferation of the mammary gland and down-regulated by its differentiation.