The effect of hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF) on the proliferation of human skin fibroblasts was examined. At concentrations above 1.0 ng/ml, both native and recombinant human HGF/SF stimulated the DNA synthesis determined by [3H]thymidine incorporation, which was completely inhibited by an anti-human HGF/SF monoclonal antibody. The maximal DNA synthesis in the treated cells was nearly twice that in untreated cells. HGF/SF also caused an increase in the labelling index, DNA content and cell number. The effect of HGF/SF was more than additive to the maximal effect of insulin and epidermal growth factor, other mitogens for the fibroblasts. These results indicate that human skin fibroblasts are sensitive to the mitogenic action of HGF/SF.