We analysed the involvement of known and putative tumour suppressor- and oncogene loci in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) by microsatellite analysis (LOH), Southern blotting and comparative genomic hybridization (CGH). A total of 78 pure DCIS cases, classified histologically as well, intermediately and poorly differentiated, were examined for LOH with 76 markers dispersed along all chromosome arms. LOH on chromosome 17 was more frequent in poorly differentiated DCIS (70%) Compared to well-differentiated DCIS (17%), whereas loss on chromosome 16 was associated with well- and intermediately differentiated DCIS (66%). For a subset we have done Southern blot-and CGH analysis. C-erbB2/neu was amplified in 30% of poorly differentiated DCIS. No amplification was found of c-myc, mdm2, bek, flg and the epidermal growth factor (EGF)-receptor. By CGH, most frequent alterations in poorly differentiated DCIS were gains on 8q and 17q22-24 and deletion on 17p, whereas in well-differentiated DCIS amplification on chromosome 1q and deletion on 16q were found. In conclusion, our data indicates that inactivation of a yet unknown tumour suppressor gene on chromosome 16q is implicated in the development of most well and intermediately differentiated DCIS whereas amplification and inactivation of various genes on chromosome 17 are implicated in the development of poorly differentiated DCIS. Furthermore these data show that there is a genetic basis for the classification of DCIS in a well and poorly differentiated type and support the evidence of different genetic routes to develop a specific type of carcinoma in situ of the breast.