The expression of genes that code for the large ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs) and tRNAs can be regulated by calcium, serum, insulin and a tumor-promoting phorbol ester, TPA. These effectors can rapidly alter rRNA and tRNA synthesis in dividing and nondividing Drosophila cells. In an in vitro assay system of the nondividing cells of the male accessory glands, calcium, insulin and TPA were shown to increase both rRNA and tRNA synthesis. Exposure of actively dividing Drosophila culture cells to differing serum concentrations or TPA also altered rRNA and tRNA synthesis. Nuclear run-on assays demonstrate that the exposure of these cells to increased serum concentrations coordinately alters RNA polymerase I loading on both 18S and 28S rDNA. These data indicate that calcium, growth factors and a tumor-promoter each can signal changes in ribosomal and tRNA gene expression.