Transgenic mice bearing the rat neu proto-oncogene under the transcriptional control of the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) promoter develop focal mammary adenocarcinomas after long latency that are metastatic to the lung in a high percentage of the tumor-bearing animals. Because expression of the neu gene in the mammary epithelium precedes the occurrence of tumors, it appears that another genetic event in addition to neu transgene expression is required for tumorigenesis. We have investigated the expression of PEA3, a new member of the ets oncogene family of transcriptional regulatory factors, in neu-induced mammary tumors to learn whether PEA3 plays a role in tumor progression in this organ. We observed high levels of PEA3 RNA in neu-induced tumors, but little, if any, PEA3 RNA in the surrounding mammary epithelium. Moreover, mammary tumors that had metastasized to the lung also overexpressed the PEA3 gene, whereas normal lung tissue did not. Similar results were obtained after analyses of other transgenic mouse lines bearing metastatic mammary tumors induced by polyomavirus middle T antigen. These findings suggest that enhanced expression of PEA3 may be required to facilitate mammary tumor progression and metastasis.