Structural instability of wild-type fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-1 and its dependence on exogenous heparin for optimal activity diminishes its potential utility as a therapeutic agent. Here we evaluated FGFC, an FGF1:FGF2 chimeric protein, for its receptor affinity, absolute heparin-dependence, stability and potential clinical applicability. Using BaF3 transfectants overexpressing each FGF receptor (FGFR) subtype, we found that, like FGF1, FGFC activates all of the FGFR subtypes (i.e., FGFR1c, FGFR1b, FGFR2c, FGFR2b, FGFR3c, FGFR3b and FGFR4) in the presence of heparin. Moreover, FGFC activates FGFRs even in the absence of heparin. FGFC stimulated keratinocytes proliferation much more strongly than FGF2, as would be expected from its ability to activate FGFR2b. FGFC showed greater structural stability, biological activity and resistance to trypsinization, and less loss in solution than FGF1 or FGF2. When FGFC was intraperitoneally administered to BALB/c mice prior to whole body gamma-irradiation, survival of small intestine crypts was significantly enhanced, as compared to control mice. These results suggest that FGFC could be useful in a variety of clinical applications, including promotion of wound healing and protection against radiation-induced damage.