int-2 was discovered as a proto-oncogene transcriptionally activated by MMTV proviral insertion during mammary tumorigenesis in the mouse. Sequence analysis showed int-2 to be a member of the fibroblast growth factor family of genes. In normal breast and most other adult mouse tissues, int-2 expression was not detected except for low levels in brain and testis. However, using in situ hybridization, expression was found at a number of sites during embryonic development, from day 7 until birth. An analysis of the int-2 transcripts found in embryonal carcinoma cells revealed six major classes of RNA initiating at three promoters and terminating at either of two polyadenylation sites. Despite the transcriptional complexities, all size classes of RNA encompass the same open reading frame. Using an SV40 early promoter to drive transcription of an int-2 cDNA in COS-1 cells, several proteins were observed. These were shown to be generated by initiation from either of two codons: One, a CUG, leads to a product which localizes extensively to the cell nucleus and partially to the secretory pathway. In contrast, initiation at a downstream AUG codon results in quantitative translocation across the endoplasmic reticulum and the accumulation of products ranging in size from 27.5 x 10(3) Mr to 31.5 x 10(3) Mr in organelles of the secretory pathway. These proteins represented glycosylated and non-glycosylated forms of the same primary product with or without the signal peptide removed. These findings suggest the potential for a dual role of int-2; an autocrine function acting at the cell nucleus, and a possible paracrine action through a secreted product.