Bombesin and the related mammalian peptides, such as gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP), are potent mitogens for some fibroblast cell lines. Here we have examined the bombesin- and GRP-mediated changes in the phosphorylation of proteins in Swiss 3T3 cells and compared these to the events observed after platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), epidermal growth factor (EGF) and tumor promoter treatment. In agreement with previous reports, bombesin, GRP and PDGF, but not EGF, increased the activity of protein kinase C. This was assayed by an inhibition of [125I]EGF binding, stimulation in phosphorylation of pp60c-src on serine 12 and stimulation in phosphorylation of a group of 80 kd proteins. The different phosphorylated forms of the 80 kd proteins were examined by tryptic peptide mapping and shown to contain multiple phosphorylation sites. An investigation of the tyrosine phosphorylation events following mitogen treatment revealed a significant difference between PDGF and the bombesin peptides. PDGF treatment caused a marked increase in total cellular phosphotyrosine levels, and tyrosine phosphorylation both of known substrates and its own receptor. In contrast, bombesin and GRP treatments resulted in only a weak or undetectable increase in tyrosine phosphorylation of total cellular protein or known substrates. In this respect bombesin and GRP were more similar to EGF. The fact that the bombesin peptides do not induce a phosphorylation response identical with either PDGF or EGF suggests that there is not a single common signal pathway which is activated by all these mitogens.