Cell/substratum adhesions have been studied in rat fibroblasts transformed by a ts-mutant of Rous sarcoma virus (LA-29) using light and electron microscopy and a variety of preparative methods including immunolabeling. Cells were studied both during the process of transformation, i.e., shifting from 39 degrees to 35 degrees C, and in a fully transformed state (passaged at 35 degrees C continuously). The typical focal contacts observed at 39 degrees C (restrictive temperature) were replaced by "point-contacts" (100-200 per cell) which were classified by immunolabeling as podosome-like adhesions containing actin, beta 1 integrin subunit, vinculin, talin, alpha-actinin, and small membrane patches containing clathrin and integrin. Tyrosine-phosphorylated proteins and pp60src were found in association with groups of small particles on the protoplasmic surface of ventral membranes by gold immunolabeling. Both types of point-contacts were visualized by electron microscopy of ultrathin sections and shadowed replicas and characterized by gold immunolabeling wherever possible. The overall composition of podosome-like adhesions is similar to focal contacts but there are differences in the three-dimensional organization of the microfilaments and in the topography of vinculin which is associated more with actin filaments than with the plasma membrane. The presence of talin and extracellular matrix receptor in podosomes together with the adhesive properties of these actin-containing structures argues against the hypothesis that pp60src affects the interaction of actin with the plasma membrane by phosphorylating the fibronectin receptor and/or other associated proteins.