The conditioned medium from Sertoli cells contains a potent mitogen(s) that can markedly stimulate the proliferation of 4 different cell lines of endoderm or mesoderm origin in the presence or absence of serum. With A431 cells, conditioned medium produced in a dose-dependent manner up to a 5.2-fold increase in cell number after 5 days in culture. Addition of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), testosterone, retinol, and insulin to the Sertoli cells increased the secretion of the mitogenic activity. The ability of Sertoli cell conditioned medium (SCCM) to displace 125I-labeled epidermal growth factor (125I-EGF) from formalin-fixed A431 cells was also examined. The SCCM from Sertoli cells incubated with insulin contained 1.42 ng eq of EGF/ml; testosterone, retinol, and FSH (in the presence of insulin) further increased the secretion of this EGF competing activity to 2.09, 2.56, and 3.22 ng eq/ml, respectively. The amount of EGF competing activity was positively correlated with mitogenic activity. Separation of SCCM by gel filtration on Bio-Gel P-10 produced three major peaks of EGF-competing activity at apparent Mr = 1800-2100, 3800-4200, and 8000-9500. Chromatographing SCCM (in the presence of protease inhibitors) on size exclusion high performance liquid chromatography revealed two peaks of EGF competing activity at Mr about 8000 and 2000 coincident with and proportional to peaks of mitogenic activity. This activity was heat-sensitive and resistant to reducing agents, and addition of an equivalent amount of EGF as that present in SCCM produced an inhibition in growth of the A431 cells compared to a 3-fold stimulation with SCCM. Thus, the Sertoli cells secrete a potent mitogen that is distinct from EGF and alpha TGF. This factor that we have termed Sertoli cell-secreted growth factor is hormonally regulated by FSH, testosterone, and retinol and may play an important role in controlling spermatogenesis.