In order to evaluate the intracellular function of glia maturation factor (GMF), we overexpressed GMF in C6 rat glioma cells using two methods: stable transfection using the pcDNA3 plasmid, and transient transfection using replication-defective human adenovirus. With both methods, C6 cells transfected with GMF and overexpressing the protein exhibit a lower saturation density in culture compared to non-transfected or vector alone controls. Transfected cells also exhibit morphological differentiation as shown by the outgrowth of cell processes. When inoculated into nude mice, transfected cells are less tumorigenic than controls, and express the mature astrocytic marker glial fibrillary acidic protein. In tissue culture, transfected cells show a 3.5-fold increase in CuZn-dependent superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD) activity. Western blot analysis reveals a 3.5-fold increase in CuZnSOD protein, suggesting an induction of the enzyme. In view of recent findings that reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the antioxidant enzymes are intricately involved in key physiologic processes such as proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis, the study raises the possibility that CuZnSOD may be a mediator of GMF function.