4-Hydroxy-2-trans-nonenal (4-HNE), one of the major end products of lipid peroxidation, has been shown to induce apoptosis in a variety of cell lines. It appears to modulate signaling processes in more than one way because it has been suggested to have a role in signaling for differentiation and proliferation. We show for the first time that incorporation of 4-HNE-metabolizing glutathione S-transferase (GST) isozyme, hGSTA4-4, into adherent cell lines HLE B-3 and CCL-75, by either cDNA transfection or microinjection of active enzyme, leads to their transformation. The dramatic phenotypic changes due to the incorporation of hGSTA4-4 include rounding of cells and anchorage-independent rapid proliferation of immortalized, rounded, and smaller cells. Incorporation of the inactive mutant of hGSTA4-4 (Y212F) in cells by either microinjection or transfection does not cause transformation, suggesting that the activity of hGSTA4-4 toward 4-HNE is required for transformation. This is further confirmed by the fact that mouse and Drosophila GST isozymes (mGSTA4-4 and DmGSTD1-1), which have high activity toward 4-HNE and subsequent depletion of 4-HNE, cause transformation whereas human GST isozymes hGSTP1-1 and hGSTA1-1, with minimal activity toward 4-HNE, do not cause transformation. In cells overexpressing active hGSTA4-4, expression of transforming growth factor beta1, cyclin-dependent kinase 2, protein kinase C betaII and extracellular signal regulated kinase is upregulated, whereas expression of p53 is downregulated. These studies suggest that alterations in 4-HNE homeostasis can profoundly affect cell-cycle signaling events.