In order to characterize more fully the mechanism by which casein kinase II is regulated in mammalian cells, the effect of epidermal growth factor (EGF) on the activity of the kinase in human A-431 carcinoma cells was examined. Treatment of cells with EGF prior to lysis consistently resulted in a transient 4-fold increase in the activity of cytosolic casein kinase II. Activity rose sharply between 20 and 30 min, peaked at approximately 50 min, and returned to basal levels by approximately 120 min. Similar results were obtained using the casein kinase II specific peptide substrate, Arg-Arg-Arg-Glu-Glu-Glu-Thr-Glu-Glu-Glu, or DNA topoisomerase II (which is specifically modified by the kinase in vivo and serves as a high affinity substrate in vitro) as the phosphate acceptor in assays. Identification of casein kinase II as the stimulated activity was confirmed by partial proteolytic mapping and phosphoamino acid analysis of modified topoisomerase II, by inhibition at nanomolar levels of heparin or micromolar levels of nonradioactive GTP, and by the ability to employ radioactive GTP as a direct phosphate donor. The EGF stimulation of casein kinase II was dependent on the availability of intracellular (but not extracellular) calcium. In addition, hormonal action was modulated by calcium/phospholipid-dependent protein kinase (protein kinase C). Casein kinase II stimulation did not require an increase in the concentration of the kinase, protein synthesis, the continual presence of a small effector molecule, or a direct interaction with the EGF receptor/tyrosine kinase. In contrast, hormonal activation of the kinase was dependent on the phosphorylation of casein kinase II or a terminal stimulatory factor.