Disruption of apoptotic pathways is a major factor in the multistep process of tumorigenesis, whereas induction of apoptosis can be important for tumor suppression and cancer therapy. The adenovirus type 5 E1A gene provides a useful tool to study the function of tumor suppression and apoptosis. E1A has been shown to induce apoptosis in different systems in vitro. However, this activity has not been well characterized in vivo. Therefore, the effect of this activity and the link to the in vivo biological function are not clear. To answer these questions, we introduced E1A into murine melanoma cells and characterized the biological features both in vitro and in vivo. Expression of the E1A gene does not affect the proliferation rate of tumor cells in vitro, but inhibits tumor growth in vivo. The in vitro analysis indicated that the E1A-expressing tumor cells are sensitive to serum depletion-induced apoptosis. Importantly, E1A-mediated apoptosis was also identified in vivo, suggesting this activity contributed to the tumor suppressive function. The in vivo apoptotic pattern was unique: most of the apoptotic cells were around the periphery of the tumors, implicating the interaction of these cells with stress stimuli in vivo. In addition, E1A also rendered the tumor cells susceptible to the cytotoxicity of other anticancer agents, a feature useful for improving the efficacy of cancer therapy. The results provide a functional link between in vitro activity and in vivo effects.