Oncogenic viruses demonstrating a strict tropism for the mammary gland provide special opportunities to study the susceptibility of this tissue to neoplasia. In rats, human adenovirus type 9 (Ad9) elicits mammary fibroadenomas that are similar to common breast tumors in women, as well as phyllodes-like tumors and mammary sarcomas. By constructing recombinant adenoviruses between Ad9 and Ad26 (a related nontumorigenic virus), it was shown that the Ad9 E4 region was absolutely required to produce these mammary tumors. This indicates that an adenovirus gene located outside the classic transforming region (E1) can significantly influence the in vivo oncogenicity of an adenovirus. Consistent with a direct role in mammary gland oncogenesis, the Ad9 E4 region also exhibited transforming properties in vitro. Therefore, the Ad9 E4 region is a viral oncogene specifically involved in mammary gland tumorigenesis.