Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) is highly expressed in normal skin keratinocytes, and its involvement in growth and differentiation processes in these cells has been implicated by several lines of evidence which include the use of antisense PTHrP (Kaiser et al., 1994, Mol. Endocrinol., 8:139-147). In this study, we have investigated whether PTHrP expression and its subcellular localization is linked to cell cycle progression in a human keratinocyte cell line (HaCat), which constitutively expresses and secretes PTHrP. PTHrP mRNA and immunoreactive PTHrP were assessed in asynchronous dividing cells and in cells blocked at G1 or G2 + M phases of the cell cycle using several different protocols. The response of PTHrP mRNA expression was examined following readdition of serum in the continued presence of cycle blockers, and after release from cell cycle block, or from cell synchronization by serum deprivation. PTHrP expression was greatest in actively dividing cells when cells were in S and G2 + M phases of the cell cycle and were lowest in quiescent G1 cells. Most notable were the high levels of PTHrP mRNA and protein in cells at G2 + M phase of the cell cycle at division. Furthermore, PTHrP was localized to the nucleolus in quiescent cells, but redistributed to the cytoplasm when cells were actively dividing. Taken together, these results support a role for PTHrP in cell division in keratinocytes. In asynchronously growing cells, PTHrP expression fell as cells became confluent at a time when cell growth is inhibited and cells begin to differentiate. Mitogen stimulation of HaCaT cells resulted in a rapid increase in PTHrP mRNA expression, but was dependent upon cells being in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. Cells blocked in G1 responded to mitogen both in the continued presence of aphidicolin or when released from block. Cells blocked at G2 + M with colcemid expressed high levels of PTHrP mRNA and protein, and PTHrP mRNA did not respond further to mitogen in the continued presence of blocker. However, in cells released from block at G2 + M by addition of serum, an increase in PTHrP expression was seen coincident with the progression of cells into G1. In contrast, in a squamous cancer cell line (COLO16), basal PTHrP expression was high and was not altered during the cell cycle or by cell cycle block, consistent with association of its dysregulated expression in malignant cells. The results of this study suggest that PTHrP may have two roles in the cell cycle; one in G1 in response to mitogen, and a second at cell division when its expression is high and it is relocated from the nucleolus to the cytoplasm.