Abstract: Epidermal growth factor (EGF) and basic fibro-blast growth factor (bFGF) are both trophic for dopamine neurons s in cultures of dissociated embryonic rat mesen-cephaion, but the significance of this apparent overlap in neurotrophic activity is not yet known. In this study, we investigated the mechanisms of action of these two growth factors and the potential relationship between them, Using a nuclease protection assay, we determined that bFGF mRNA was expressed in the cultures. Double-label immunocytochemistry revealed that bFGF immunore-active material could be detected in tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactive neurons and glial fibrillary acidic protein immunoreactive astrocytes. EGF treatment increased bFGF mRNA content per culture dish. As we have previously demonstrated that EGF exerts its dopaminergic neurotrophic activity via an intermediate cell type, studies were designed to address whether the pathway by which EGF acts on dopaminergic neurons is mediated by the release of bFGF. However, the trophic action of EGF on dopamine neurons, represented by high-affinity neuronal dopamine uptake, could not be blocked by immunoneutralization of bFGF, suggesting that the actions of EGF were not mediated by bFGF release. The time course of the effects of EGF and bFGF on dopamine uptake were similar, with significant increases detectable only after 5 days in culture. Both growth factors were active in the picomolar-to-nannomolar range with maximal trophic activity between 0.4 and 2.5 nM. EGF, however, was the more potent mitogen under these conditions. When cultures were simultaneously incubated with maximal concentrations of EGF and bFGF, the effect on dopamine uptake was significantly greater than with either growth factor alone and, in fact, approximated the sum of the individual effects. On the basis of these results we conclude that these growth factors have independent effects on dopamine neurons of the mesencephalon.