To assess the transforming capability of the c-Jun protein, we introduced the chicken c-jun proto-oncogene into a replication competent avian retroviral expression vector (RCAS). Viral Jun efficiently transformed chicken embryo fibroblasts (CEFs) when expressed from this vector. Overexpression of c-Jun leads to transformation of CEFs with an efficiency that is 15- to 25-fold less than that seen for v-Jun, suggesting that v-Jun contains structural features that increase its oncogenic potential relative to c-Jun. There are four structural differences between v-Jun and c-Jun. To determine the relative contribution that each of these structural differences between v-Jun and c-Jun has on oncogenic activity, several deletion and substitution mutants were constructed. Each of these mutants was expressed in CEF and assayed for transformation by focus formation. Analysis of the results reveals that deletion of a region of 27 amino acids near the amino terminus of c-Jun and deletion of 3'-untranslated sequences are critical in activating the full oncogenic potential of Jun.