The cloned murine cytotoxic T cell line CT6 solely requires interleukin 2 (IL 2) for viability and cell cycle progression. Treatment of G arrested cultures of CT6 cells with recombinant IL 2 induces the rapid sequential expression of the nuclear proto-oncogenes c-fos, c-myc, and c-myb but does not affect the expression of several cytosolic or membrane-associated proto-oncogenes. A comparison of early genes induced by growth factor treatment of quiescent NIH/3T3 fibroblasts and CT6 cells demonstrated that only c-fos and c-myc induction is shared in the two different lineages. Factor-independent lines derived from CT6 cells show no mitogenic response to IL 2, yet binding of IL 2 with its receptor in the cells was capable of inducing the expression of c-fos and c-myc. In factor-independent cell lines, c-myc was uniformly expressed at high constitutive levels, suggesting that c-myc abrogates growth factor requirements of these cells. The levels of c-myc expression in the factor-independent lines was not due to an autocrine production of IL 2 but may be a consequence of constitutively activated IL 2 receptors.