Neurotransmitter receptors are usually restricted to neuronal cells, but the signaling pathways activated by these receptors are widely distributed in both neural and non-neural cells. The functional consequences of activating a brain-specific neurotransmitter receptor, the serotonin 5HT1c receptor, in the unnatural environment of a fibroblast were examined. Introduction of functional 5HT1c receptors into NIH 3T3 cells results, at high frequency, in the generation of transformed foci. Moreover, the generation and maintenance of transformed foci requires continued activation of the serotonin receptor. In addition, the injection of cells derived from transformed foci into nude mice results in the generation of tumors. The serotonin 5HT1c receptor therefore functions as a protooncogene when expressed in NIH 3T3 fibroblasts.