Two normal mortal human fibroblast cell strains were transformed into immortal cell lines, SUSM-1 and KMST-6, by treatment with 4-nitroquinoline 1-oxide (4NQO) and Co-60 gamma rays, respectively. These immortalized cell lines showed morphological changes of cells and remarkable chromosome aberrations, but neither of them grew in soft agar or formed tumors in nude mice. The immortal cell line, KMST-6, was then converted into neoplastic cells by treatment with Harvey murine sarcoma virus (Ha-MSV) or the c-Ha-ras oncogene derived from a human lung carcinoma. These neoplastically transformed cells acquired anchorage-independent growth potential and developed tumors when transplanted into nude mice. All the tumors grew progressively without regression until the animals died of tumors. In addition, the tumors were transplantable into other nude mice. Normal human fibroblasts, on the other hand, were not transformed into either immortal or tumorigenic cells by treatment with Ha-MSV or c-Ha-ras alone. Our present data indicate that (1) the chemical carcinogen, 4NQO, or gamma rays worked as an initiator of carcinogenesis in normal human cells, giving rise to immortality, and (2) the ras gene played a role in the progression of the immortally transformed cells to more malignant cells showing anchorage-independent growth and tumorigenicity. In other words, the immortalization process of human cells seems to be a pivotal or rate-limiting step in the carcinogenesis of human cells.