Midkine (MK) is a heparin-binding growth factor and is frequently expressed at high levels in many human carcinomas. To investigate further the roles of MK in the regulation of cell growth, we introduced MK expression in NIH3T3 cells. A mixture of transfectants of an MK expression vector, but not a control vector, formed colonies in soft agar, showed an elevated cell number at confluence, and formed tumours in nude mice. An interesting characteristic of the transformed cells was that they became spontaneously detached from the culture dish substratum. In the transformed cells, MK was not only secreted, but also localized, in the perinuclear region as spots. The present data indicate that MK has the potential to transform NIH3T3 cells and suggest that overexpression of the MK gene may promote unregulated cell growth in vivo.