Somatostatin receptors type 2 (sst2) have been frequently detected in neuroendocrine tumors and bind somatostatin analogues, such as octreotide, with high affinity. Receptor autoradiography, specific mRNA detection and, more recently, antisst2 polyclonal antibodies are currently employed to reveal sst2. The aim of the present study was to investigate by three different techniques the presence of sst2 in a series of 26 neuroendocrine tumors of the lung in which fresh frozen tissue and paraffin sections were available. It was possible, therefore, to compare, in individual cases, RNA analysis studied by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), in situ hybridization (ISH), and immunohistochemistry. A series of 20 nonneuroendocrine lung carcinoma samples served as controls. RT-PCR was positive for sst2 in 22 of 26 samples, including 15 of 15 typical carcinoids, 5 of 6 atypical carcinoids, and 2 of 5 small-cell carcinomas. The sst2 mRNA signal obtained by RT-PCR was strong in the majority (87%) of typical carcinoids and of variable intensity in atypical carcinoids and small-cell carcinomas. A weakly positive signal was observed in 5 of 20 control samples. In immunohistochemistry, two different antibodies (anti-sst2) were employed, including a monoclonal antibody, generated in the Department of Pathology, University of Turin. In the majority of samples a good correlation between sst2 mRNA (as detected by RT-PCR) and sst2 protein expression (as detected by immunohistochemistry) was observed. However, one atypical carcinoid and one small-cell carcinoma had focal immunostaining but no RT-PCR signal. ISH performed in selected samples paralleled the results obtained with the other techniques. A low sst2 expression was associated with high grade neuroendocrine tumors and with aggressive behavior. It is concluded that 1) neuroendocrine tumors of the lung express sst2, and there is a correlation between the mRNA amount and the degree of differentiation; 2) immunohistochemistry and ISH are reliable tools to demonstrate sst2 in these tumors; and 3) sst2 identification in tissue sections may provide information on the diagnostic or therapeutic usefulness of somatostatin analogues in individual patients with neuroendocrine tumors.