Recent studies indicate that the transcription factor c-Myc contributes to oncogenesis by altering the expression of genes involved in cell proliferation, but its precise function in neoplasia remains ambiguous. The ability of c-Myc to bind the sequence CAC(G/A)TG and transactivate appears to be linked to its transforming activity; however, c-Myc also represses transcription in vitro through a pyrimidine-rich cis element termed the initiator (Inr). In transfection experiments using the adenoviral major late (adML) promoter, which contains two Myc binding sites and an Inr, we determined that c-Myc represses transcription through the initiator in vivo. This activity requires the dimerization domain and amino acids 106 to 143, which are located within the transactivation domain and are necessary for neoplastic transformation. We studied a lymphoma-derived c-Myc substitution mutation at 115-Phe, which is within the region required for transcriptional suppression, and found the mutant more effective than wild-type c-Myc in transforming rodent fibroblasts and in suppressing the adML promoter. Our studies of both loss-of-function and gain-of-function c-Myc mutations suggest a link between c-Myc-mediated neoplastic transformation and transcriptional repression through the Inr.