To obtain information regarding the growth-inhibitory effect of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 and its non-calcaemic analogue 22-oxa-1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 on pancreatic cancer cell lines, differences in the effects of G1-phase cell cycle-regulating factors were studied in vitamin D-responsive and non-responsive cell lines. Levels of expression of cyclins (D1, E and A), cyclin-dependent kinases (2 and 4) and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors (p21 and p27) were analysed by Western blotting after treatment with these compounds. In the responsive cells (BxPC-3, Hs 700T and SUP-1), our observations were: (1) marked up-regulation of p21 and p27 after 24 h treatment with 10(-7) mol l(-1) 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 and 22-oxa-1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3; and (2) marked down-regulation of cyclins, cyclin-dependent kinases and cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors after 7 days' treatment. In non-responsive cells (Hs 766T and Capan-1), no such changes were observed. In conclusion, vitamin D analogues up-regulate p21 and p27 as an early event, which in turn could block the G1/S transition and induce growth inhibition in responsive cells.