The expression of the protooncogene encoded proteins (c-erbB1, c-erb B2, c-myc, c-fos) and the suppressor gene product p53 was analyzed in 81 human squamous cell carcinomas of the lung and correlated with clinical parameters of the patients (patient survival, presence of metastases and tumor stage) and with biological characteristics of the tumors (tumor growth in nude mice, DNA-ploidy, proliferative activity, drug-resistance and P-glycoprotein or gluathione S-transferase expression). By means of immunohistochemistry, expression of c-erbB1 oncoprotein (EGF-receptor) was detected in 79% of the tumors, c-erbB2 (c-neu) proteins in 35%, c-myc proteins in 48%, c-fos proteins in 41%, and p53 in 43% of the tumors. Patients with c-erbB1 positive tumors had a poor prognosis (p = 0.021). In addition, these tumors were more frequently drug resistant (p = 0.0067). A significant correlation between the growth of the squamous lung carcinomas in nude mice and c-fos oncoprotein expression was demonstrated (p = 0.017). Therefore, EGF-receptor and c-fos products may serve as prognostic factors for the aggressiveness of squamous cell carcinomas of the lung and for the response of these tumors to chemotherapy. No significant correlation was found between the expression of the c-erbB1 or c-fos gene products and stage, metastasis and DNA-ploidy. In contrast to these results, no relationship was found between c-neu or c-myc gene products expression and any of the clinical or biological parameters examined. Aneuploid squamous cell carcinomas of the lung expressed p53 more frequently than diploid tumors (p = 0.027). However, there was no significant difference between p53 expression and stage, survival of patients, metastasis, growth of the tumors in nude mice, proliferative activity and drug-resistance of the tumors.