A truncated form of the c-Kit tyrosine kinase receptor, originally identified in mouse haploid germ cells, is aberrantly expressed in human cancer cell lines of various origin. This alternative transcript originates in the 15th intron of the human c-kit gene. We have previously demonstrated that sperm-carried mouse truncated c-Kit (tr-Kit) is a strong activator of the Src-family tyrosine kinases both in transfected cells and in mouse oocytes. In the present work, we report that human tr-Kit mRNA and protein are expressed in LNCaP prostatic cancer cells. We have identified two regions in the 15th and 16th introns of the human c-kit gene that show homology with sequences in the spermatid-specific tr-Kit promoter within the 16th intron of mouse c-kit. We also show that nuclear factors present in LNCaP cells bind to discrete sequences of the mouse tr-Kit promoter. Moreover, Western blot analysis of 23 primary prostate cancers indicated that tr-Kit was expressed in approximately 28% of the tumors at less advanced stages (Gleason grade 4 to 6) and in 66% of those at more advanced stages (Gleason grade 7 to 9), whereas it was not expressed in benign prostatic hypertrophies. Sequencing of the cDNA for the truncated c-Kit, amplified from both LNCaP cells and neoplastic tissues, confirmed the existence in prostate cancer cells of a transcript arising from the 15th intron of human c-kit. We also show that tr-Kit-expressing LNCaP cells and prostatic tumors have higher levels of phosphorylated/activated Src than tr-Kit-negative PC3 cells or prostatic tumors, and that transfection of tr-Kit in PC3 cells caused a dramatic increase in Src activity. Interestingly, we found that Sam68, a RNA-binding protein phosphorylated by Src in mitosis, is phosphorylated only in prostate tumors expressing tr-Kit. Indeed, both activation of Src and phosphorylation of Sam68 were observed in all of the three grade 7 to 9 tumors analyzed that expressed tr-Kit. Our data describe for the first time the existence of a truncated c-Kit protein in primary tumors and show a correlation between tr-Kit expression and activation of the Src pathway in the advanced stages of the disease. Thus, these results might pave the way for the elucidation of a novel pathway in neoplastic transformation of prostate cells.