A set of genes is rapidly inducible when quiescent fibroblasts are stimulated by growth factors or by the activation of temperature-sensitive retroviral protein-tyrosine kinases. Most of these so-called immediate-early genes were cloned by differential cDNA hybridization. DNA sequence analysis identified many of them as putative members of the growth factor or of the transcription factor gene family, suggesting a role in signal transmission during the G0-to-G1 transition. In this study, we identified one of the genes that are rapidly inducible by the retroviral protein-tyrosine kinases v-Src and v-Fps of Rous sarcoma virus and Fujinami sarcoma virus, respectively, as the rhoB gene, a member of the ras gene superfamily whose products are GTP-binding proteins, rhoB is transiently activated at the transcriptional level by v-Fps and by epidermal growth factor. Its labile RNA is inducible in the presence of cycloheximide but not of actinomycin D. rhoB is strongly induced by epidermal growth factor and by platelet-derived growth factor both in subconfluent, serum-starved and in density-arrested Rat-2 fibroblasts. Fetal calf serum is a poor inducer, particularly in density-arrested cells, and phorbol esters do not increase rhoB expression at all. These data suggest that rhoB is inducible by protein-tyrosine kinases through a pathway not involving the activation of protein kinase C. Neither the closely related rhoC and rhoA genes nor the distantly related c-H-ras gene is rapidly inducible by mitogens. Thus, rhoB is the first known member of the small GTP-binding proteins among the immediate-early genes.