Aminopeptidase (AP) A is a transmembrane type II molecule widely distributed in mammalian tissues. Since APA expression may be absent in renal cell carcinoma (RCC), it is possible that there is an altered regulation or other defect of APA upon malignant transformation of proximal tubular cells. However, investigations into the regulation of APA on tumour cells are rare. We report, for the first time, that both transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta1) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) down-regulate APA mRNA as well as protein expression in renal tubular epithelial cells and RCC cells in culture. In addition to this, both cytokines decrease dipeptidylpeptidase (DP) IV/CD26 mRNA, but not APN/CD13 mRNA expression. Otherwise, IL-4 and IL-13 increase CD13 as well as CD26 expression, but do not alter APA expression. Interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha), IFN-beta and IFN-gamma increase mRNA expression of all the three membrane ectopeptidases, whereas IL-1, IL-6, IL-7, IL-12 and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) have been found to be without any significant effect. Treatment of cultured cells with cAMP-increasing agents, such as 8-bromo-cAMP or A23187, results in an increase in APA and DPIV/CD26, but no change in APN/CD13 mRNA expression or even a decrease in it. Furthermore, AP inhibitors can influence APA mRNA expression, since bestatin causes an increase in APA expression in a time- and dose-dependent manner, whereas bestatin does not change CD13 or CD26 expression. No difference could be found with respect to the modulation by different mediators between RCC cells and renal epithelial cells, though permanent tumour cell lines such as Caki-1 and Caki-2 may have lost some of the normally expressed peptidases.