We have used quinazoline inhibitors of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase to study the link between EGFR signaling and G(1) to S traverse. Treatment of A431 and MDA-468 human tumor cells with 0.1-10 microM AG-1478 inhibited basal and ligand-stimulated EGFR phosphorylation without a decrease in receptor content, EGF-binding sites, or binding affinity. Incubation of A431 cells with 0.1-1 microM AG-1517 abrogated (125)I-EGF internalization. Both AG-1478 and AG-1517 markedly inhibited A431 and MDA-468 colony formation in soft agarose at concentrations between 0.01 and 1 microM. Daily injections of AG-1478 at 50 mg/kg delayed A431 tumor formation in athymic nude mice. A transient exposure of A431 cells to AG-1478 resulted in a dose-dependent up-regulation of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27, down-regulation of cyclin D1 and of active MAPK, and hypophosphorylation of the retinoblastoma protein (Rb). These changes were temporally associated with recruitment of tumor cells in G(1) phase and a marked reduction of the proportion of cells in S phase. Upon removal of the kinase inhibitor, EGFR and Rb phosphorylation and the levels of cyclin D1 protein were quickly restored, but the cells did not reenter S phase until p27 protein levels were decreased. Phosphorothioate p27 oligonucleotides decreased p27 protein in A431 cells and abrogated the quinazoline-mediated G(1) arrest. Treatment of A431 cells with PD 098509, a synthetic inhibitor of MEK1, inhibited MAPK activity without inducing G(1) arrest or increasing the levels of p27. However, treatment with LY 294002, an inhibitor of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), inhibited basal Akt activity, up-regulated p27, and recruited cells in G(1). These data suggest that p27 is required for the growth arrest that follows interruption of the EGFR kinase in receptor-overexpressing cells. In addition, the G(1) arrest and up-regulation of p27 resulting from EGFR blockade are not due to the interruption of MAPK, but to the interruption of constitutively active PI3K function.