v-Rel is the oncogenic member of the Rel/NF-kappaB family of transcription factors and transforms hematopoietic cells and fibroblasts. Differential display was employed to identify target genes that exhibit altered expression in v-Rel transformed cells. One of the cDNAs identified encodes the chicken ortholog of TC10, a member of the Rho small GTPase family. The expression of TC10 was increased in v-Rel-transformed chicken embryonic fibroblasts (CEFs) 3 to 6-fold relative to control cells at both the RNA and protein levels. An elevated level of active, GTP-bound TC10 was also detected in v-Rel-transformed cells relative to control cells. Expression of a dominant-negative TC10 mutant (TC10T32N) decreased the colony formation potential of v-Rel-transformed cells. Furthermore, overexpression of wild-type TC10 or a gain-of-function mutant (TC10Q76L) greatly enhanced the ability of v-Rel transformed CEFs to form colonies in soft agar. In addition to enhance the transformation potential of v-Rel, the overexpression of wild-type TC10 or the gain-of-function mutant alone enhanced the saturation density of CEFs and was sufficient for their anchorage-independent growth in vitro. These results indicate that elevated TC10 activity contributes to v-Rel-mediated transformation of CEFs and demonstrate for the first time that a Rho factor alone is capable of inducing the in vitro transformation of primary cells.