Epidermal growth factor and its receptor (EGFR) constitute an important and well-characterized mitogenic system in various ectodermal tissues including glial cells. Over-expression of the EGFR due to gene amplification has been reported in primary brain tumours of glial origin. Using a monoclonal antibody to the EGFR and immunohistochemical analysis, we examined the expression and distribution of EGFR in 103 astrocytic tumours. In addition, selected tumours were studied by Western blotting using a polyclonal antibody to EGFR and by Southern blot analysis. Glioblastomas (WHO grade IV) showed EGFR expression in 37% of cases, whereas pilocytic (WHO grade I), low-grade (WHO grade II) or anaplastic astrocytoma (WHO grade III) were invariably EGFR negative. Generally, there was a close correlation between the presence of EGFR gene amplification and over-expression of receptor protein. Different patterns of immunoreactive cells and significant intratumour heterogeneity of EGFR expression were observed in glioblastomas. The specific association of EGFR over-expression with glioblastoma may provide a useful diagnostic tool for distinguishing anaplastic astrocytoma (WHO grade III) and glioblastoma multiforme (WHO grade IV).