The mitotic checkpoint is thought to be essential for ensuring accurate chromosome segregation by implementing mitotic delay in response to a spindle defect. To date, however, very little data has become available on the defects of the mitotic checkpoint in human cancer cells. In the present study, impaired mitotic checkpoint was found in four (44%) of nine human lung cancer cell lines. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of frequent impairment of the mitotic checkpoint in this leading cause of cancer deaths. As an initial step towards elucidation of the underlying mechanism, we further undertook a search for mutations in a key component of the mitotic checkpoint, known as hsMAD2, and its immediate downstream molecule, p55CDC. No such mutations were found, however, in either 21 lung cancer cell lines or 25 primary lung cancer cases, although we could identify silent polymorphisms and the transcribed and processed hsMAD2 pseudogene that was subsequently mapped at 14q21-q23. The present observations appear to warrant further investigations, such as search for alterations in other components, to better understand the molecular pathogenesis of this fatal disease, and warn against potential misinterpretation when performing mutational analyses for other cancer types based on cDNA templates.