Germline mutations in PTEN (MMAC1/TEP1) are found in patients with Cowden syndrome, a familial cancer syndrome which is characterized by a high risk of breast and thyroid neoplasia. Although somatic intragenic PTEN mutations have rarely been found in benign and malignant sporadic thyroid tumors, loss of heterozygosity (LOH) has been reported in up to one fourth of follicular thyroid adenomas (FAs) and carcinomas. In this study, we examined PTEN expression in 139 sporadic nonmedullary thyroid tumors (55 FA, 27 follicular thyroid carcinomas, 35 papillary thyroid carcinomas, and 22 undifferentiated thyroid carcinomas) using immunohistochemistry and correlated this to the results of LOH studies. Normal follicular thyroid cells showed a strong to moderate nuclear or nuclear membrane signal although the cytoplasmic staining was less strong. In FAs the neoplastic nuclei had less intense PTEN staining, although the cytoplasmic PTEN-staining intensity did not differ significantly from that observed in normal follicular cells. In thyroid carcinomas as a group, nuclear PTEN immunostaining was mostly weak in comparison with normal thyroid follicular cells and FAs. The cytoplasmic staining was more intense than the nuclear staining in 35 to 49% of carcinomas, depending on the histological type. Among 81 informative tumors assessed for LOH, there seemed to be an associative trend between decreased nuclear and cytoplasmic staining and 10q23 LOH (P = 0.003, P = 0.008, respectively). These data support a role for PTEN in the pathogenesis of follicular thyroid tumors.