Substance P (SP), fibroblast growth factor (FGF), and epidermal growth factor (EGF) are mitogens for fibroblasts. EGF acts as a progression factor, whereas FGF and SP have competence factor activity. The ability of eicosanoids to regulate proliferation of fibroblasts and the increased production of prostaglandins by fibroblasts in response to the growth factors, led us to investigate the involvement of cyclooxygenase-dependent arachidonic acid metabolites in the mitogenic response of serum-starved human skin fibroblasts to SP, FGF, and EGF. We tested the interaction of a submaximal concentration of SP(10(-9)M) with baFGF(40 micrograms/ml) and EGF(0.01 microgram/ml) both on fibroblast proliferation and release of arachidonic acid metabolites. A combination of SP and EGF synergistically stimulated fibroblast proliferation and prostaglandin E2 release, whereas addition of SP to FGF-containing cultures did not affect cell growth. Inhibition of cyclooxygenase by acetylsalicylic acid augmented the growth response of fibroblasts to all: SP, FGF, and EGF. In the presence of acetylsalicylic acid, SP combined with FGF enhanced fibroblasts proliferation, whereas a combination with EGF inhibited cellular growth with respect to growth induced by EGF alone. Thus, interactions of SP with FGF and EGF differently affected the mitogenic response depending on the formation of arachidonic acid metabolites. The findings indicate that eicosanoids may be important mediators of competence and progression factor activities that may determine the effects of substance P on fibroblast proliferation in a cytokine network.