Mouse erythroleukemia cells contain several abundant mRNA species that occur to a considerable extent as untranslated molecules. For two of these species, which code for polypeptides P40 and P21, the proportion of molecules engaged in translation decreases rapidly after exposure of the cells to dimethyl sulfoxide. The extent of utilization of a third species, the P36 mRNA, is not altered. The rate of production of the P40 mRNA does not appear to be affected in the dimethyl sulfoxide-treated cells. The P21 mRNA appears to be produced in increasing amounts, leading to a large accumulation of untranslated molecules in the cytoplasm. The mRNA for actin remains nearly fully utilized during this process, but its intracellular concentration decreases, thus resulting in a reduction in the amounts present in polysomes. The results indicate that some mRNA species in mouse tumor cells are subject to a translational repression process that can serve to regulate selectively the extent of expression of the corresponding genes.