The cyclin D1 gene is amplified and overexpressed in a significant fraction of human esophageal tumors, and several other types of human cancer, but the functional significance of this overexpression has not been established. To further address the roles of cyclin D1 in growth control and tumorigenesis, we have overexpressed an antisense cyclin D1 cDNA construct, either constitutively or inducibly, in the HCE7 human esophageal cancer cell line in which cyclin D1 is amplified and expressed at high levels. The expression of antisense cyclin D1 led to decreased expression of cyclin D1 at both mRNA and protein levels, and this was associated with a marked inhibition of cell proliferation. Antisense cyclin D1 expressing cells displayed a decreased plating efficiency, increased doubling time, decreased saturation density, increased cell size, decreased cyclin D1-associated in vitro kinase activity, decreased anchorage-independent growth, and a loss of tumorigenicity in nude mice. These findings provide direct evidence that the overexpression of cyclin D1 in certain tumor cells contributes to their abnormal growth and tumorigenicity. The ability to revert the transformed phenotype of these cells with antisense cyclin D1 suggests that cyclin D1 may be a useful target in cancer therapy.