To screen pancreatic carcinomas for chromosomal aberrations we have applied molecular cytogenetic techniques, including fluorescent in situ hybridization, comparative genomic hybridization, and spectral karyotyping to a series of nine established cell lines. Comparative genomic hybridization revealed recurring chromosomal gains on chromosome arms 3q, 5p, 7p, 8q, 12p, and 20q. Chromosome losses were mapped to chromosome arms 8p, 9p, 17p, 18q, 19p, and chromosome 21. The comparison with comparative genomic hybridization data from primary pancreatic tumors indicates that a specific pattern of chromosomal copy number changes is maintained in cell culture. Metaphase chromosomes from six cell lines were analyzed by spectral karyotyping, a technique that allows one to visualize all chromosomes simultaneously in different colors. Spectral karyotyping identified multiple chromosomal rearrangements, the majority of which were unbalanced. No recurring reciprocal translocation was detected. Cytogenetic aberrations were confirmed using fluorescent in situ hybridization with probes for the MDR gene and the tumor suppressor genes p16 and DCC. Copy number increases on chromosome 20q were validated with a probe specific for the nuclear receptor coactivator AIB1 that maps to chromosome 20q12. Amplification of this gene was identified in six of nine pancreatic cancer cell lines and correlated with increased expression.