We have recently reported the identification of a new oncogene, named PTC, frequently activated in human thyroid papillary carcinomas. This gene is a novel rearranged form of the ret proto-oncogene and we have shown that this rearrangement occurred in vivo as a tumor-specific somatic event. In an effort to further examine the role of this oncogene in human malignancies, we have investigated the expression of the ret oncogene in a number of human tumors. We consistently detected expression of normal-sized transcripts of the ret proto-oncogene in human pheochromocytomas and in human medullary thyroid carcinomas (MTC), both of familial and sporadic type. Moreover, we showed that ret mRNA levels were increased following (Bu)2cAMP-induced differentiation of a human MTC cell line (TT). Since the ret gene has been mapped on chromosome 10, close to the gene which predisposes patients to the MEN2A syndrome, we suggest that this region of chromosome 10 might be involved in the proliferative and differentiative patterns of these neuroectodermal tissues.