An immunohistochemical method for assessing cell cycle phase distribution in neurosurgical biopsies would enable such data to be incorporated into diagnostic algorithms for the estimation of prognosis and response to adjuvant chemotherapy in glial neoplasms, without the requirement for flow cytometric analysis. Paraffin-embedded sections of intracerebral gliomas (n = 48), consisting of diffuse astrocytoma (n = 9), anaplastic astrocytoma (n = 8) and glioblastoma (n = 31), were analysed by immunohistochemistry using markers of cell cycle entry, Mcm-2 and Ki67, and putative markers of cell cycle phase, cyclins D1 (G1-phase), cyclin A (S-phase), cyclin B1 (G2-phase) and phosphohistone H3 (Mitosis). Double labelling confocal microscopy confirmed that the phase markers were infrequently coexpressed. Cell cycle estimations by immunohistochemistry were corroborated by flow cytometric analysis. There was a significant increase in Mcm-2 (P < 0.0001), Ki67 (P < 0.0001), cyclin A (P < 0.0001) and cyclin B1 (P = 0.002) expression with increasing grade from diffuse astrocytoma through anaplastic astrocytoma to glioblastoma, suggesting that any of these four markers has potential as a marker of tumour grade. In a subset of glioblastomas (n = 16) for which accurate clinical follow-up data were available, there was a suggestion that the cyclin A:Mcm-2 labelling fraction might predict a relatively favourable response to radical radiotherapy. These provisional findings, however, require confirmation by a larger study. We conclude that it is feasible to obtain detailed cell cycle data by immunohistochemical analysis of tissue biopsies. Such information may facilitate tumour grading and may enable information of prognostic value to be obtained in the routine diagnostic laboratory.