The neu protooncogene (also called HER2 and c-erbB2) encodes a cell-surface tyrosine kinase structurally related to the receptor for the epidermal growth factor (EGF). We have previously reported that a candidate ligand for the neu receptor is secreted by ras-transformed fibroblasts. Biochemical analyses of the neu stimulatory activity indicate that the ligand is a 35-kDa glycoprotein that is heat stable but sensitive to reduction. The factor is precipitable by either high salt concentrations or acidic alcohol. Partial purification of the molecule by selective precipitation, heparin-agarose chromatography, and gel filtration in dilute acid resulted in an active ligand, which is capable of stimulating the protooncogenic receptor but is ineffective on the oncogenic neu protein, which is constitutively active. The purified fraction, however, retained the ability to stimulate also the related receptor for EGF, suggesting that these two receptors are functionally coupled through a bidirectional mechanism. Alternatively, the presumed ligand interacts simultaneously with both receptors. The presented biochemical characteristics of the factor are expected to enable a completely purified factor with which to explore these possibilities.