Human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV 16) is often found in cervical carcinomas, while HPV 6 is frequently associated with benign genital lesions. We have compared the abilities of the E7 transforming proteins of HPV 6 and 16 to transform various established and primary rodent cells by using the same heterologous promoter system. HPV 16 E7 efficiently induced anchorage-independent growth of all the rodent cell lines tested and immortalized or cooperated with ras in transforming primary rat cells. On the other hand, the transforming activity of HPV 6 E7 was lower and was restricted. By construction of chimeras of HPV 6 and 16 E7, we found that the difference in transforming activity between the two E7 proteins was mainly determined by the difference in their 30 N-terminal amino acid residues, although some activities seem to be slightly affected by differences in their residual C-terminal portions.