Pathogenesis of tumor formation in the anterior pituitary has been intensively studied, but the common mechanism involved in pituitary cell transformation and tumorigenesis remains elusive. In this study, we used mRNA differential display PCR to identify mRNAs that are differentially expressed in rat pituitary tumor cells compared with normal pituitary tissue. An mRNA exclusively expressed in pituitary tumor but not in normal pituitary was characterized. Using this pituitary tumor-specific PCR product as a probe to screen a cDNA library constructed from rat pituitary tumor GH4 cells, a cDNA of 974 bp was isolated. This cDNA encodes a novel protein of 199 amino acids, which contains no well characterized functional motifs. The mRNA of this cDNA is detected in normal adult testis and in embryonic liver, where the transcript is about 300 bp shorter and expressed at a much lower level than that detected from pituitary tumor cells. Overexpression of this protein in mouse 3T3 fibroblasts shows that it inhibits cell proliferation and induces cell transformation in vitro. Injection of transfected 3T3 cells into athymic nude mice resulted in tumor formation within 3 weeks in all animals. These results indicate that pituitary tumor cells express a unique and potent transforming gene (PTTG), which may play a role in pituitary tumorigenesis.