To gain more information about the growth regulation of renal epithelial cells, we examined the growth stimulatory effect of serum and intracellular sodium in the renal epithelial cell line, LLC-PK1. In subconfluent LLC-PK1 cells serum-starved for 5 days and exposed to [3H]thymidine for 24 h, 22.9% of the cells synthesized DNA. Stimulation with 10% foetal calf serum (FCS) caused an almost three-fold increase in the fraction of labelled nuclei (62.2%). Serum-starved LLC-PK1 cells exposed to 10% FCS responded with an increased abundance of c-jun transcripts. The maximal expression of the c-jun transcripts occurred at 60 min and declined 120 min after serum stimulation. It has been suggested that an increase in Na+ influx plays a role in the growth regulation of renal epithelial cells. This prompted us to study the effect of intracellular Na+ loading on the growth response of LLC-PK1 cells. Serum-starved LLC-PK1 cells were incubated in a low K+ medium or exposed to Nystatin. Incubation in a low K+ medium or with Nystatin resulted in a marked increase in intracellular Na after only 5 min. A low K+ medium did not significantly influence the intracellular pH. No effect was observed on DNA synthesis or the abundance of c-jun transcripts in LLC-PK1 cells. Nor did Na+ loading enhance the growth stimulatory effect of serum. The results suggest that an increase in intracellular sodium does not directly regulate the growth of renal epithelial cells.