Epidermal growth factor (EGF) produced rapid and striking effects on parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) gene expression in the immortalized human keratinocyte cell line, HaCaT. Steady-state levels of PTHrP mRNA and secreted PTHrP were increased 10-fold by maximally effective concentrations of EGF. EGF increased both PTHrP gene transcription and PTHrP mRNA stability. Nuclear run-on assays demonstrated a 4-fold increase in transcriptional rate in EGF-stimulated cells while transient transfection analysis indicated that the action of EGF on transcription involved both the GC-rich promoter, P2, and the downstream TATA promoter, P3, but apparently not the upstream TATA promoter, P1. In experiments where EGF treatment produced more stable PTHrP transcripts, the half-life of c-fos mRNA was unaltered, suggesting a relatively specific effect of EGF. Moreover, only those species of PTHrP mRNA containing two of the alternative 3' exons (exons VII and VIII) were stable, those containing exon IX were not. Reverse-transcription PCR demonstrated that EGF produced differential increases in the abundance of PTHrP mRNA species initiated by the three PTHrP promoters. The major effect was seen on the abundance of transcripts initiated by P1 and P2, with less marked regulation of P3-initiated transcripts. Thus EGF regulation of PTHrP gene expression in HaCaT cells is multifactorial and the combination of its actions at the 5' and 3' ends of the gene favours the accumulation of subpopulations of PTHrP mRNA containing exons I, VII and VIII.