Androgens stimulate the growth of prostatic carcinoma, possibly by modulating the activity of locally expressed growth factors. Recently, we have shown that an LHRH (or LHRH-like) system exerting an inhibitory action on cell proliferation is present in the human androgen-dependent prostatic tumor cell lines LNCaP. The following experiments have been performed in LNCaP cells to clarify whether LHRH might inhibit cell proliferation by interfering with the two major mitogenic factors for these cells: (a) testosterone (T), the major exogenous stimulating factor, and (b) epidermal growth factor (EGF), one of the locally produced growth factors. (a) It has been shown that an LHRH agonist (LHRH-A, Zoladex) counteracts the proliferative action of T in a dose-dependent way. To clarify whether LHRH might interfere with the activity of T in prostate tumors, LNCaP cells were treated with LHRH agonist over different time intervals, and the effects of treatment evaluated in terms of expression of androgen receptor mRNA. The data obtained indicate that LHRH-A does not affect androgen receptor expression at any time interval examined. (b) LHRH-A inhibits the mitogenic action of EGF on LNCaP cells and significantly reduces the concentration of EGF receptors in these cells. Experiments have been performed to explore whether LHRH-A might alter intracellular signaling mechanisms mediating the activity of EGF. In LNCaP cells LHRH-A blocks EGF-induced expression of the c-fos proto-oncogene but does not modify EGF-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of the EGF receptor. These data suggest that, in androgen-dependent prostate tumors, LHRH might inhibit cell proliferation by interfering with some but not all of the mechanisms mediating the mitogenic action of EGF. Possible interactions between LHRH and T-activated events still remain to be elucidated.