Proto-oncogenes may be important in the cellular processes central for the growth and differentiation of normal cells. N-myc is a DNA sequence which shares limited homology to the proto-oncogene c-myc and has been found to be amplified in both primary tissue and cell lines from neuroblastoma, a childhood tumour of neuroectodermal origin. Differentiation of this embryonal tumour is of clinical importance, since occasional tumours have been noted to differentiate in vivo to benign ganglioneuroma. In vitro, many human neuroblastoma cell lines can be induced to differentiate morphologically and biochemically by a variety of agents. Retinoic acid (RA), an analogue of vitamin A, has been shown to inhibit neuroblastoma cell growth and clonability in soft agar, and to induce extensive neurite outgrowth. Therefore we examined the relationship of N-myc expression to the in vitro differentiation of these cells. We report here that in the case of RA-induced differentiation, a decreased level of expression is detected within 6 h of treatment and precedes both cell-cycle changes and morphological differentiation.