Long chain saturated fatty acids are known to inhibit breast cancer cell proliferation; however, the mechanism of this inhibition is not known. Treatment of Hs578T breast cancer cells with long chain saturated fatty acids (0.15 mmol/l for 6 hours) before epidermal growth factor (EGF) treatment inhibited EGF-induced cell proliferation in a chain-length-dependent manner. Stearate (C:18) completely inhibited the EGF-induced cell proliferation, whereas palmitate (C:16) inhibited by 67 ± 8% and myristate (C:14) had no effect. In contrast, stearate had little effect on insulin-like growth factor-1-stimulated cell proliferation. The inhibitory effect of stearate on cell proliferation was dose and time dependent and independent of EGF receptor (EGFR) tyrosine phosphorylation. Pretreatment of cells with pertussis toxin (0.1 μg/ml for 24 hours) inhibited the EGF-induced cell growth by 50 ± 8%, also independent of EGFR tyrosine phosphorylation. A pertussis-toxin-sensitive, 41-kd G-protein was specifically co-immunoprecipitated with the EGFR. Pretreatment of cells with 0.15 mmol/L stearate front 0 to 6 hours inhibits, in parallel, both the EGF-induced cell proliferation and pertussis-toxin-catalyzed ADP ribosylation of the G-protein associated with the EGFR. These studies suggest that long chain saturated fatty acids inhibit EGF-induced breast cancer cell growth via a mechanism involving an EGFR-G-protein signaling pathway.