The growth-promoting and/or differentiation-blocking activities of Kirsten (Ki-MSV) or Harvey murine sarcoma virus (Ha-MSV) on various types of cells in vitro are well documented. Here we report an unexpected effect of these viruses on a rat phaeochromocytoma cell line, PC12. PC12 cells, which multiply indefinitely in growth medium, are known to respond to nerve growth factor (NGF) by cessation of cell division and expression of several properties resembling those of differentiated sympathetic neurones. We have found that Ki- and Ha-MSV mimic some, if not all, of the activities of NGF in PC12 cells, and there is evidence that the viral oncogenes, v-Ki-ras and v-Ha-ras, are responsible for this phenomenon. This system may be of value for studying the mechanism of action of the v-ras genes as well as the regulatory mechanism of growth and differentiation in neuronal cells.