Infection of human embryonic kidney cells with adenovirus type 12 results in the induction of damage at specific (17q21-22, 1p36, 1q21, and 1q42-43) and random sites in the cellular chromosomes. A previous study by Durnam et al. (D. M. Durnam, P. P. Smith, J. C. Menninger, and J. K. McDougall, Cancer Cells 4:349-354, 1986) indicated that the expression of viral early region 1 (E1) is sufficient for the induction of damage at band 17q21-22. In the present report we used an adenovirus type 12-adenovirus type 5 recombinant with E1A hybrid sequences as well as viruses with mutations in the adenovirus type 12 E1B genes to map adenovirus type 12 E1 functions involved in the induction of genetic damage. Our results show that the expression of the E1A proteins is not sufficient for this effect. On the other hand, mutations within the E1B 55-kilodalton protein but not the E1B 19-kilodalton protein affect the ability of the virus to induce both specific and random chromosomal damage.