The specificity and sensitivity of the nested reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on tyrosinase was studied, for the detection of micrometastases of malignant melanoma. The specificity was assessed in the blood of six healthy donors, four patients with non-melanoma cancers of which one patient was treated with granulocyte-colony stimulating factor. Lymph nodes of nine patients without malignant melanoma were tested and four cell lines of various other tumours. Six of the nine non-melanoma lymph nodes were positive in this assay. The sensitivity was tested in a spike experiment in vitro, using a melanoma cell line. The detection limit was ten melanoma cells per 10(7) peripheral blood lymphocytes.