The aim of these investigations was to identify a number of molecular markers that correlate to growth stimulation by IGF-I. For this purpose, we have selected four cell lines that respond equally well to growth stimulation by serum, but differ in their proliferative response to IGF-I. Two cell lines (R503 and R600 cells) respond to IGF-I with both DNA synthesis and cell division, a third cell line (R508 cells) can enter S phase after IGF-I, but the cells do not divide, and a fourth one (R12 cells) totally fails to respond to IGF-I with growth. Using these cell lines, all of which had an intact mitogenic response program to serum, we show that: (1) an increase in GTP/GDP ratio is an early event that distinguishes cells capable of entering S phase after IGF-I from cells that do not; (2) all cells that are induced to synthesize DNA by IGF-I have increased phosphorylation of MAP kinases, regardless of their ability to divide; (3) the same cell lines display a similar increase in cyclin A and B expression at early times after stimulation; and (4) cyclin levels and cyclin B-associated cdc2 kinase activity remain elevated at later times only in cells that undergo cell division. These results establish certain parameters of IGF-I-mediated mitogenesis and clearly separate the occurrence of DNA synthesis from cell division in certain situations.