We have created fibroblast cell lines that express cyclin A under the control of a tetracycline-repressible promoter. When stimulated to reenter the cell cycle after serum withdrawal, these cells were advanced prematurely into S phase by induction of cyclin A. In an asynchronous population, induction of cyclin A caused a decrease in the percentage of cells in G1. These results demonstrate that expression of cyclin A is rate limiting for the G1-to-S transition and suggest that cyclin A can function as a G1 cyclin. Although the level of exogenous cyclin A was constant throughout the cell cycle, its associated kinase activity increased as cells approached S phase. Low kinase activity in early G1 was found to correlate with the presence of p27Kip1 in cyclin A-associated complexes, while high kinase activity in late G1 was correlated with its absence. These results suggest that a function of p27Kip1 in G1 is to prevent premature activation of cyclin A-associated kinase. Cyclin A expression in early G1 led to phosphorylation of the product of the retinoblastoma susceptibility gene (pRb). Thus, cyclin A expression can be rate limiting for pRb phosphorylation, implicating pRb as a physiological substrate of the cyclin A-dependent kinase. Taken together, these results demonstrate that deregulated expression of cyclin A can perturb the normal regulation of the G1-to-S transition.