We have identified, by differential cDNA library screening, 15 serum inducible genes in the human diploid fibroblast cell line WI-38. The genes fall into two classes that are distinguished by their dependence on protein synthesis for the induction by serum, i.e., primary and secondary genes. While 11 of these genes encode known proteins, 4 other genes have not been described to date. The former genes encode proteins of diverse functions, including the monocyte-derived neutrophil chemotactic factor (MONAP), calmodulin, tropomyosin, tenascin, collagenase, plasminogen activator inhibitor-2a, the 'sperm-specific' cleavage signal-1 protein, metallothionein IIa and the mitochondrial chaperonin hsp-60. Interestingly, one of the unknown genes contains a large open reading frame for a polypeptide that is highly homologous to a previously unidentified long open reading frame in the opposite strand of the gene coding for the transcription factor HTF-4. We also studied the regulation of these serum-induced genes during cell cycle progression in normally cycling WI-38 and HL-60 cells separated by counterflow elutriation as well as in serum-stimulated HL-60 cells. Our results clearly show that, in contrast to the prevailing opinion, the expression of most genes induced after mitogen stimulation is not subject to a significant regulation in normally proliferating cells. This supports the hypothesis that the progression into S from either G0 or G1 are distinct processes with specific patterns of gene expression.