Plasmids expressing partial adenovirus early region 1A (E1A) coding sequences were tested for activities which facilitate in vitro establishment (immortalization) of primary baby rat kidney cells and which enable the T24 Harvey ras-related oncogene and the polyomavirus middle T antigen (pmt) gene to transform primary baby rat kidney cells. E1A cDNAs expressing the 289- and 243-amino acid proteins expressed both E1A transforming functions. Mutant hrA, which encodes a 140-amino acid protein derived from the amino-terminal domain shared by the 289- and 243-amino acid proteins, enabled ras (but not pmt) to transform and facilitated in vitro establishment to a low, but detectable, extent. These studies suggest that E1A functions which collaborate with ras oncogenes and those which facilitate establishment are linked. Furthermore, E1A transforming functions are not associated with activities of the 289-amino acid E1A proteins required for efficient transcriptional activation of viral early region promoters.