Trophic changes of the exocrine pancreas after in vivo gastrin (G)/CCK treatment are well documented but up to now the study of the mechanisms involved is restricted by the lack of a suitable in vitro model. Nevertheless the in vivo trophic effect induced by gastrin/CCK peptides has been associated with an increase of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) activity. In the present work, using the AR42J cell line in which CCK receptors and stimulation of amylase release by CCK peptides has already been demonstrated, we investigated the presence of gastrin binding sites and the possible modulation of proliferation by an inhibitor of ODC activity. 125I-BH-G17ns binding is saturable, reversible and specific. Potencies of the different analogues tested are G17ns greater than CCK8 greater than CCK8ns greater than or equal to G6s greater than G/CCK4. Furthermore dBt cGMP, a non-peptide antagonist for CCK receptors, does not compete for gastrin binding. This indicates the existence of a subclass of gastrin binding sites. Difluoromethyl ornithine (DFMO) (1 mM), an irreversible inhibitor of ODC, inhibits cell growth from day 3 up to day 7. This growth inhibition is dose dependent and closely related to an intracellular polyamine modulation. Putrescine and spermidine levels fell under detectable values while spermine levels increased. All these data suggest that this cell line could be a useful in vitro model to study the mechanisms of gastrin induced growth control.