Normal tissues, primary tumors, and metastases of mammary and salivary glands and oral/laryngeal mucosa have been analyzed with Northern-blots employing 32P-labeled RNA probes for the expression of the neu oncogene. Neu oncogene expression of a mRNA species of 4.6 kilobases was found in all normal salivary (five) and mammary glands (four) as well as in two normal or inflamed samples of tongue mucosa. This expression was regarded as baseline activity of the neu gene for the respective tissues and was used as standard for the evaluation of benign and malignant tumors. None of 14 squamous cell carcinomas of the oral and laryngeal mucosa showed enhanced neu transcription level. Five fibroadenomas, one benign variant of phylloid tumor, one carcinosarcoma, and one of two proliferative fibrocystic diseases of the breast showed lacking or normal baseline expression of the neu oncogene, as did one monomorphous cystadenolymphoma of the parotid gland. In contrast, four parotid pleomorphic adenomas and one salivary gland adenocarcinoma showed enhanced neu expression. For mammary adenocarcinomas, increased neu oncogene expression concerned ten of 34 cases--all being variants of ductal carcinomas--and all metastases analyzed (six) deriving from three primaries. One adenoid cystic carcinoma also showed enhanced neu expression. Neu overexpression may reflect accidents of genomic reconstitutional events occurring regularly within the differentiation pathway of epithelial/myoepithelial cells. This assumption was supported by further immunohistochemical analysis which showed stainings of myoepithelial and myoepithelia-like cell populations in tumors, especially pleomorphic adenomas and adjacent normal-looking tissues.