Early and transient expression of proto-oncogenes c-fos and c-myc is involved in the mitogenic response to PDGF (platelet-derived growth factor). We used DNA-mediated transfection to approach the role played by these genes in cell growth control by PDGF and in growth deregulation (neoplasia). Cloned pFBJ-2 (v-fos) and glucocorticoid-inducible mouse c-myc were co-transfected with a neo genetic marker to allow a neutral selection on the basis of resistance to the neomycin derivative geneticin G418. pFBJ-2 transfection was found to interfere with the number of G418-resistant (G418r) colonies. By using a v-fos-deleted pFBJ-2 construct, the deleterious effect was attributed to v-fos coding sequences. Cellular fos gene disruption, by homologous recombination with exogenous v-fos, is proposed as the basis for the deleterious effect. Co-transfection with MMTV-H3-c-myc effectively counteracts the negative effects of v-fos. Different from the parental line or single myc or fos transfectants, double myc/fos transfectants are morphologically transformed. Double transfectants still retain the PDGF requirement for growth in monolayer cultures.