Keratinocyte growth factor (KGF) was originally discovered in human embryonic lung fibroblasts and is a member of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family. Members of the FGF family have been shown to regulate testicular function. However, the recently discovered KGF has not been studied in the testis. KGF has been detected in many other tissues, including the prostate, an organ whose development and function have been associated with presence of the testis. In this study, KGF mRNA was detected in the whole testis using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The 575-bp KGF-specific product was detected along with a 594-bp beta-actin-specific product. To identify the cell types in which KGF mRNA was predominantly expressed, interstitial cells were physically separated from seminiferous tubules. The interstitial cells were then sorted on a discontinuous Percoll gradient and total cellular mRNAs isolated. Using RT-PCR and Southern hybridization with specific cDNA probes, the KGF mRNA was detected in interstitial cells. KGF expression levels were then evaluated semiquantitatively with a competitive RT-PCR assay. KGF expression levels were highest in interstitial cells that equilibrated between 20 and 30% Percoll. Enriched Leydig cells and seminiferous tubules expressed low levels of KGF. Finally, immunohistochemical analysis was performed on canine testes using a rabbit anti-KGF polyclonal antibody. The KGF protein was localized predominantly to peritubular cells of the canine testis. These results suggest that KGF is synthesized in the canine testis.