The aim of this study was to investigate the expression of estrogen receptor (ER) beta and alpha genes in normal (N) and malignant (C) primary cultures of human prostate epithelial cells (PEC) and fibroblasts (PFC) and in the prostate tissue donors. Both ERbeta and ERalpha messenger ribonucleic acids were found by RT-PCR analysis in six NPECs and normal prostate tissues and in only one of six CPECs and in the respective cancer tissue donor. The other five CPECs and related cancer tissue donors and all normal and cancer PFCs expressed ERalpha messenger ribonucleic acid alone. Immunoblot analysis, using a polyclonal anti-ERbeta (C-terminal) antibody, demonstrated ERbeta protein in all NPEC lysates and in one of the six CPECS: ERalpha protein was expressed in both NPECs and CPECs when a polyclonal antibody directed against the ERalpha N-terminal domain was used. In contrast, ERalpha protein was not detected in two of the six CPEC lysates when ERalpha C-terminal monoclonal antibodies were used. Using a set of primers designed to amplify the region from exons 6-8, RT-PCR analysis demonstrated the absence of the expected transcript in these cells. The present study shows that the ERbeta gene is expressed together with ERalpha in normal prostates and NPECs, whereas it is barely detectable in prostate cancer and CPECS: Moreover, in some CPECs, the ERalpha gene may be transcribed in a changed protein, resulting from the expression of a deletion variant. Together, these data suggest that prostate malignancy is associated with a potential disorder of ER-mediated pathways.