Cellular and viral oncogenes have been linked to the transformation of established cell lines in vitro, to the induction of tumors in vivo, and to the partial transformation or immortalization of primary cells. Based on the ability to cooperate with mutated ras oncogenes in the transformation of primary cells, the adenovirus E1a and cellular p53 genes have been assigned an immortalizing activity. It is demonstrated in this paper that the adenovirus type 5 E1a gene and simian virus 40 promotor-linked p53 cDNA are able to transform previously immortalized cells to a tumorigenic phenotype without a significant change in cell morphology. It is also shown that, when linked to a constitutive promotor, the normal mouse and human c-myc genes have the same transforming activity. Cells transformed by each of these oncogenes have an increase capacity to grow in the absence of growth factors and a limited anchorage-independent growth capability.