We have attempted to distinguish in human neuroblastoma between the effects of mycN on differentiation and its potential to promote malignant progression. Others have observed outgrowth of autocrine cells with evidence of an advanced malignant phenotype in mycN-transfected clonal cell line derived from the single-copy mycN neuroblastoma, SK-N-SH. We have now transfected the parental cell line with the same mycN expression vector and selected 5 clones characterized by unique and stable chromosomal integration sites and variable exogenous copy numbers. mycN gene expression was variable in the different clones and correlated roughly with the copy number of transfected mycN genes. Clones with minimal levels of mycN gene expression had a neuroblastic phenotype and low numbers of surface HLA class-1 molecules. Clones with high levels of mycN expression had a Schwann/glial-like phenotype with higher surface HLA class-1 display without imbalance of expression of specific loci and accelerated growth. Two such clones were capable of anchorage-independent growth in the absence of serum, and acquired tumorigenic properties. Our results show that exogenous mycN expression can be associated with a differentiation of neuroblastoma cells along the Schwann/glial pathway and can induce accelerated and autonomous growth.