In sporadic breast cancer, no mutations of the BRCA1 gene have been reported so far, whereas BRCA1 mRNA is markedly decreased in invasive breast cancer. To elucidate the contribution of the BRCA1 gene in sporadic breast cancer, we quantified the BRCA1 protein, using [125I] labeling of whole-cell proteins, lentil-lectin affinity chromatography, immunoprecipitation by anti-BRCA1 antibodies (C-20, D-20, I-20 and K-18), purification of the immune complex by protein A affinity chromatography and chromato-focusing. As loss of 1 allele may lead to a decreased expression of the gene, 10 tumors were previously checked for loss of heterozygosity (LOH) of the BRCA1 gene, using 3 intragenic microsatellite markers. Our results indicated that the BRCA1 gene product was decreased in the 4 tumors with LOH compared with matched normal breast tissues. Reduced amounts of BRCA1 protein were also detected in 3 of 6 tumors without LOH. Our quantitative method allowed us to demonstrate that the BRCA1 protein level was decreased in sporadic invasive breast carcinomas with or without LOH of the BRCA1 gene, implying multiple mechanisms of BRCA1 expression down-regulation in these tumors. Our data suggest that the amount of BRCA1 protein present may play an important role in human sporadic breast carcinoma.