Close correlation between tissue transglutaminase (tTG) induction and growth regulation and/or cell death processes has been suggested in many cell lineages. In this study, the regulation of the tTG levels by various growth and differentiation factors and its relation to growth rate and cell death processes were investigated in two rat hepatoma cell lines, McA-RH7777 and McA-RH8994, using a monoclonal antibody against liver tTG. Transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) and retinoic acid (RA) each increased tTG to the level of 8- to 32-fold above that of control cultures in both cell lines after 72-h treatment. Dexamethasone (DEX) induced a 16- to 32-fold of tTG in McA-RH8994 cells while it did not change the enzyme level in McA-RH7777 cells. Simultaneous addition of DEX and RA increased the tTG level to more than 50-fold in McA-RH7777 cells as well as McA-RH8994 cells. Other factors, such as TGF-α, hepatocyte growth factor, dimethyl sulfoxide, and protein kinase C activator, did not show significant increases of the tTG levels. Although tTG induction by TGF-β1 or DEX appeared to be correlated with their growth suppressive effects, RA increased the tTG level without suppressing the growth rate of hepatoma cells. TGF-β1 was also shown to induce cell death in both cell lines. Our results demonstrate that RA and DEX are capable of modulating the TGF-β1-induced cell death processes independent of the tTG levels. We present evidence here that tTG induction by itself is not the direct cause of growth suppression and cell death in these hepatoma cells.