Transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha) production recently has been found in normal mammalian gastric mucosa. Inasmuch as TGF-alpha and epidermal growth factor (EGF) both stimulate epithelial cell migration and proliferation and suppress gastric acid secretion, the authors of the current study proposed that these growth factors may participate in tissue repair after acute gastric mucosal injury. Consequently, TGF-alpha and EGF production were examined after orogastric administration of either acidified taurocholate or 0.6 mol/L HCl to rats. TGF-alpha messenger RNA (mRNA) expression increased in a dose- and time-dependent manner after administration of taurocholate, whereas EGF mRNA expression was not detected. Radioimmunoassay of gastric mucosal scrapings obtained 6 hours after gastric injury induced by 0.6 mol/L HCl showed a 2.1-fold increase in immunoreactive TGF-alpha but no increase in immunoreactive EGF. In addition, there was a 68-fold increase in immunoreactive TGF-alpha in gastric juice within 30 minutes of gastric instillation of HCl and, again, no increase in immunoreactive EGF. There is a rapid appearance of TGF-alpha in the gastric juice within 30 minutes of injury, which is followed by increased expression of TGF-alpha mRNA and protein in the gastric mucosa. These studies suggest that locally produced TGF-alpha may participate in gastric mucosal repair following acute gastric injury to rats.