The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the effects of lycopene, the major tomato carotenoid, on the expression of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in three breast tumour cell lines, MCF-7, HBL-100, MDA-MB-231 and the fibrocystic breast cell line MCF-10a. Flow cytometry analysis showed a G(1)/S phase cell cycle-arrest after treatment of the cells with 10 microM lycopene for 48 h. mRNA expression was studied by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction using the Taqman method. We observed an increase of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mRNA in the oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive cell lines (MCF-7 and HBL-100), and a decrease (MDA-MB-231) or no change (MCF-10a) in the ER-negative cell lines. BRCA1 and BRCA2 proteins were quantified by perfusion affinity chromatography. No variation in their expression was observed. These preliminary results on the effects of lycopene on the expression of BRCA1 and BRCA2 oncosuppressor genes in breast cancer may reflect cross-talk between the oestrogen and retinoic acid receptor (RAR) pathways.