Genistein, a component of soy, has been reported to protect against spontaneously developing prostate tumors in the transgenic adenocarcinoma of mouse prostate (TRAMP) model. This is consistent with reports showing that Asians eating a diet high in soy have reduced incidence of clinically manifested prostate cancer. In order to understand the mechanism of action of genistein, we have investigated the expression of androgen and estrogen receptors, four growth factor receptors that signal via tyrosine protein kinases, and specific growth factor proteins in the dorsolateral prostates of TRAMP mice fed 250 mg genistein/kg diet, starting at 5 weeks of age. These analyses were carried out at 12 weeks, prior to the development of solid tumors, allowing us to readily investigate cell proliferation and biomarkers in premalignant tissue. Cell proliferation, AR, ER-alpha, EGFR, ErbB2, EGF, IGF-1R, IGF-1, VEGFR2, ERKs-1 and 2 proteins and TGF-alpha mRNA, but not ER-beta and VEGF, were significantly increased in prostates of TRAMP compared to C57BL/6 mice. Genistein in the diet significantly down-regulated cell proliferation, EGFR, IGF-1R, ERK-1 and ERK-2, but not AR, ER-alpha, ER-beta, ErbB2, EGF, TGF-alpha, IGF-1, VEGF and VEGFR in prostates of TRAMP mice. Serum testosterone and dihydrotestosterone concentrations were not significantly different in C57BL/6 or TRAMP male mice fed control or genistein-containing diets. The up-regulation of sex steroid receptors and multiple growth signaling pathways in TRAMP mice supports the concept of multiple dysregulation contributing to carcinogenesis. Down-regulation of the tyrosine kinase regulated proteins, EGFR and IGF-1R, and of the downstream mitogen-activated protein kinases, ERK-1 and 2, with genistein in the diet provides a possible mechanism for prostate cancer chemoprevention. © 2003 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.