Infection and transformation of chondrocytes by Rous sarcoma viruses (RSVs) (Schmidt-Ruppin, Prague) stimulated the rate of cell growth. In contrast, several transformation-defective (td) mutants (tdPRA, tdNY105, tdNY106, tdNY107, and tdNY108) retaining various sizes of the src gene did not stimulate cell growth, indicating that the stimulation of growth of chondrocytes is due to the function of the src gene. With the use of various T (transformation)-class temperature-sensitive (ts) mutants of RSV, growth stimulation of chondrocytes by the src gene was examined. It was found that there are two types of T-class ts mutants with regard to the stimulatory effect on the growth of chondrocytes. One type (tsNY68) stimulates cell growth at both permissive (36 degrees C) and nonpermissive (41.5 degrees C) temperature, as does the wild type of RSV. Another type (ts GI201 [clone 9]) stimulates cell growth only at the permissive temperature. Chondrocytes infected with either of these two types of T-class ts mutants showed ts properties in other transformation markers, such as uptake of 2-deoxy-D-glucose, change of cell morphology, and focus formation. These data indicate that the effect of the src gene on cell growth does not occur coordinately with other transformation markers.