The expression of the receptor-like tyrosine kinase RET is associated with tumors, tissues or cell lines of neural crest origin. In addition RET products (Ret) are involved in determining cell fate during the differentiation of the enteric nervous system and during renal organogenesis. However, as yet, no direct evidence exists to indicate that the Ret kinase activity might interfere in a specific way with cellular differentiation, or proliferation, of a neural crest derived cell line. By using two constitutively activated forms of RET (RET/PTC1 and RET/PTC3) in transient transfection experiments, we have obtained evidence that active RET could reprogramme the gene expression pattern in the rat pheochromocytoma PC12 cell line. Transcription driven by gene promoters, such as NGFI-A and vgf, which belong, respectively, to primary and delayed response genes to nerve growth factor (NGF), and by the neuron-specific enolase (NSE) promoter, is rapidly induced by the expression of activated RET oncogenes. This induction is not elicited in other non neural derived cell types tested. We also demonstrate that endogenous ras activity is required for RET induction of these neural markers. Finally, in the RET/PTC transfected PC12 cells, NGF is unable to induce further their transcription. This suggests that RET/PTC could share an intracellular signalling pathway with the NGF-receptor.