The histological features of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) consist of overgrowth of synovial cells. Several growth factors that cause synovial hyperplasia have been identified in RA synovium. The basic-fibroblast growth factor (b-FGF), representing one of these growth factors, may play an important role in the pathogenesis of RA. We examined the b-FGF-mediated intracellular signal pathway involved in synovial cell growth. b-FGF-induced synovial cell growth was inhibited by protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) inhibitors, herbimycin A and genistein, but not by H7 that inhibits protein kinase C (PKC). Stimulation of synovial cells with b-FGF resulted in tyrosine phosphorylation of cellular proteins and MAP kinase activation. Our results also demonstrated that b-FGF-mediated activation of MAP kinase was inhibited by herbimycin A indicating that protein tyrosine kinase may be involved in the activation of MAP kinase in human synovial cells. However, inhibition of b-FGF-mediated MAP kinase activation by PKC downregulation did not occur.