The inappropriate activation of protein-tyrosine kinases (PTKs) has been associated with initiation and progression of several types of human cancers. We therefore postulated that immortalization by DNA tumor viruses results in the induction of PTKs fundamental to these processes. An RT-PCR-based screen was thus used to identify PTKs that were abundantly expressed in HPV-18-immortalized epithelial cells and HPV-containing carcinoma cell lines. One of the genes isolated in this screen was the focal adhesion kinase (FAK; pp125FAK), a cytoplasmic protein kinase that is activated in v-src transformed cells or by stimulation with mitogenic polypeptides. FAK also becomes catalytically active upon integrin engagement with extracellular matrix proteins, such as fibronectin. We found that FAK expression and activity were significantly elevated in HPV-18 E6/E7-immortalized human genital epithelial cells relative to their primary cell counterparts. Protein expression and tyrosine phosphorylation of the putative FAK substrate, paxillin, were also notably increased upon HPV-18 immortalization of genital epithelial cells and in HPV-containing cervical carcinoma cell lines. Most significantly, these cells expressed markedly higher levels of both intracellular and extracellular fibronectin, thus providing a mechanism for activation of FAK and increased tyrosine phosphorylation of paxillin. These findings suggest a role for the integrin/FAK-mediated signaling pathway in cervical carcinogenesis and represent one of the first demonstrations of a tyrosine kinase whose activity is elevated following viral immortalization.