Histological and anatomopathological studies performed on 152 independent myeloblastosis-associated virus type 1 (MAV1)-induced nephroblastomas allowed us to precisely define the chronology of tumor development in chickens. Three tumors representing increasing developmental stages were used to construct genomic libraries and to study both the state of proviral genomes and the sites of MAV1 integration in genomic DNA. We established that increasing levels of proviral rearrangement, eventually leading to the elimination of infectious MAV genomes, were associated with tumor progression and that 22 individual tumors, representative of different developmental stages, did not contain any common MAV1 integration site. Cloning of cellular fragments flanking the MAV1-related proviruses in tumor DNA showed that each one of eight nephroblastomas tested expressed a high level of an as yet unidentified cellular gene (nov) whose transcription is normally arrested in adult kidney cells. Cloning of the normal nov gene established that in one tumor, fused long terminal repeat-truncated nov mRNA species were expressed, indicating that at least in that case, the high level of nov expression was under the control of the MAV long terminal repeat promoter. The normal nov gene encodes a putative 32-kDa secreted polypeptide, which is a member of a new family of proteins likely to be involved in cell growth regulation. We also showed that the expression of an amino-terminal-truncated nov product in chicken embryo fibroblasts was sufficient to induce their transformation.