Exposure of neu-oncogene-transformed NIH 3T3 cells to monoclonal antibodies reactive with the neu gene product, p185, results in the rapid and reversible loss of both cell-surface and total cellular p185. Although not directly cytotoxic, monoclonal anti-p185 antibody treatment causes neu-transformed NIH 3T3 cells to revert to a nontransformed phenotype, as determined by anchorage-independent growth. Isotype matched control antibodies of an unrelated specificity do not affect p185 levels or colony formation in soft agar by neu-transformed NIH 3T3 cells. Soft agar colony formation by NIH 3T3 cells transformed by ras oncogenes is not affected by anti-p185 antibody treatment. Anchorage-independent growth of cells from the ethylnitrosourea-induced rat neuroblastoma line in which neu was originally detected by DNA transfection is also inhibited in the presence of anti-p185 monoclonal antibodies. Collectively, these results suggest that p185 is required to maintain transformation induced by the neu oncogene.