Cancer/testis (CT) antigens such as those encoded by the MAGE-gene family are expressed in a wide variety of malignant neoplasms. In normal tissues, expression is generally restricted to testis. Current knowledge of the expression pattern of CT antigens is mainly based on mRNA analysis. Little is known about actual protein expression. We previously developed MA454, a monoclonal antibody (mAb) to MAGE-1 recombinant protein. By employing antigen retrieval techniques, we show that MA454 is reactive on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues. Immunohistochemical (IHC) analysis of a normal tissue panel revealed staining solely in germ cells of testes. A series of 59 lung tumours was co-typed for MAGE-1 expression by RT-PCR and by immunohistochemistry with MA454. MA454 was positive in 19/59 cases (32%). MAGE-1 mRNA was found in 17 of the 54 cases (32%) available for RT-PCR. Of the 19 MA454-reactive tumours, 15 showed a highly heterogeneous pattern of expression. The other 4 MA454 positive cases revealed immunoreactivity in >25% of tumour areas. Of the 53 cases typed for both, mRNA and protein expression, 48 co-typed whereas 5 cases were discrepant, a likely consequence of heterogeneous MAGE-1 expression. The predominantly focal expression of MAGE-1 suggests that this antigen might not be sufficient as a sole target for immunotherapeutic approaches.