We constructed and screened a cDNA library made from simian virus 40 (SV40)-transformed NIH 3T3 cells, and we isolated cDNAs representing genes that are differentially expressed between the parental cell and its SV40-transformed derivative. We found only a small number of cDNAs representing such genes. Two isolated cDNA clones represented RNAs expressed at elevated levels in the transformed cell line in a manner relatively independent of growth conditions. The expression of two other cDNAs was growth specific because transformed cells and nonconfluent parental cells contained higher levels of the homologous RNAs than did confluent, contact-inhibited parental cells. Another cDNA was well expressed in confluent parental and confluent transformed cells, but not in nonconfluent cells. The expression of some of these cDNAs varied strikingly in different mouse cell lines. Thus the genotype or histories of different cell lines can also affect the expression of certain genes. Interestingly, the only cDNA isolated that was expressed exclusively in the transformed cell was from an SV40 message. We focused on a growth-specific cDNA which we show is derived from a mouse endogenous retrovirus-like family called VL30. We sequenced the 3' long terminal repeat (LTR) of this transcriptionally active VL30 gene. This LTR has good homology with other VL30 LTR sequences, but differences occur, particularly upstream of the VL30 promoter. We found that VL30 gene expression varied in different mouse cell lines such that C3H cell lines had very low levels of VL30 transcripts relative to NIH 3T3 cell lines. However, Southern analysis showed that both cell lines had about the same number of VL30 genes homologous to our probe and that the position of the majority of these genes was conserved. We discuss possible explanations for this difference in VL30 expression.