We have investigated whether cell surface changes associated with growth control and malignant transformation are linked to the cell cycle. Chicken embryo cells synchronized by double thymidine block were examined for cell-cycle-dependent alterations in membrane function (measured by transport of 2-deoxyglucose, uridine, thymidine, and mannitol), in cell surface morphology (examined by scanning electron microscopy), and in the ability of tumor virus gene expression to induce a transformation-specific change in membrane function. We reach the following conclusions: (a) The high rate of 2-deoxyglucose transport seen in transformed cells and the low rates of 2-deoxyglucose and uridine transport characteristic of density-inhibited cells do not occur in normal growing cells as they traverse the cell cycle. (b) Although there are cell cycle-dependent changes in surface morphology, they are not reflected in corresponding changes in membrane function. (c) Tumor virus gene expression can alter cell membrane function at any stage in the cell cycle and without progression through the cell cycle.