A chimeric gene comprising the hydroxymethyl-glutaryl coenzyme-A reductase promoter and the human GH (hGH) genomic sequences was used to create transgenic mice expressing hGH in all tissues. In transgenic females, morphological development of the mammary gland and milk protein (WAP) expression commences at 3 weeks of age. At 8 weeks of age the mammary gland is morphologically and functionally comparable to that normally reached after 14-15 days of gestation. Precocious development correlated with local expression of hGH in mammary gland. Organ culture in the presence of different lactogenic hormones revealed that insulin and hydrocortisone are sufficient to maintain transcription of the WAP gene in transgenic mammary gland. In contrast, WAP transcription in normal gland required either hGH or PRL in addition to insulin and hydrocortisone. However, the effect of hGH on mammary differentiation does not appear to be solely mediated through an interaction with PRL receptors, since PRL, when added to cultured mammary tissues, did not elicit an equivalent response.