The Wnt signal transduction pathway has been implicated in mammary tumorigenesis in the mouse. beta-catenin, a key downstream effector of this pathway interacts with and thus activates the Tcf/Lef family of transcription factors. Elevated levels of beta-catenin have been found in many human tumors, notably colon carcinomas. Recently, elevated levels of beta-catenin have been associated with poor prognosis in human adenocarcinoma of the breast. In order to assess the possible role of beta-catenin in mammary carcinoma, we have created transgenic mice bearing the MMTV-LTR driving an activated form of beta-catenin. These mice develop mammary gland hyperplasia and mammary adenocarcinoma, a phenotype very similar to that of transgenic mice expressing an MMTV-driven Wnt gene. Indeed, the histopathology of the mammary tumors in Wnt-mediated adenocarcinoma is identical to that observed in our beta-catenin-mediated disease model. Furthermore, putative beta-catenin transcriptional targets, cyclin D1 and c-myc, are elevated in beta-catenin-mediated mammary tumors and cell lines. These observations support the notion that the oncogenic Wnt pathway operates via beta-catenin and its targets in the context of mammary hyperplasia and carcinoma.