The Oct-3/4 transcription factor sustains embryonic stem (ES) cell self-renewal and is a dose-dependent cell fate determinant. In the adult male, its expression is restricted to type A spermatogonia. We show that Oct-3/4 is expressed in all human testicular germ cell tumors (GCTs) tested, even in the early premalignant component. We demonstrate that Oct-3/4 dictates ES cells' oncogenic potential in a dose-dependent manner; high levels increase the malignant potential of ES cell-derived tumors while Oct-3/4 inactivation induces regression of the malignant component. Oct-3/4 expression in a heterologous cell system transforms nontumorigenic cells and endows tumorigenicity in nude mice. Our findings suggest that Oct-3/4 is not only a distinctive immunohistochemical marker for GCTs, but also plays a critical role in the genesis of these tumors.