The response of two endogenous, estrogen-induced genes, LIV-1 and pS2, to growth factor stimulation of MCF-7 cells was examined. Epidermal growth factor (EGF), transforming growth factor alpha (TGF alpha) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) were each able to induce an increase in the two mRNAs in the absence of estradiol, and their effects were additive to that of an optimally inducing concentration (10(-8) M) of the hormone. Induction by EGF and TGF alpha, but not by IGF-1, were also additive to induction by a saturating concentration (2 microg/ml) of insulin. TGFbeta, an antimitogenic growth factor for MCF-7 cells, did not induce LIV-1 or pS2 mRNA but inhibited induction by estradiol. Increases in mRNA were shown to reflect increases in specific gene transcription. Induction by growth factors, but not by estradiol, was dependent upon protein synthesis. Induction by both growth factors and estradiol was inhibited by the pure antiestrogen, ICI 164384 (ICI), and by the mixed agonist/antagonist, tamoxifen. Despite differences in patterns of expression in vivo and in vitro, both LIV-1 and pS2 appeared to be responsive to growth factors via a mechanism distinct from that of estradiol but requiring the estrogen receptor.