A total of 93 frozen primary renal cell carcinoma (RCC) samples and 31 frozen samples of corresponding normal renal tissue were analyzed for human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I and HLA-DR expression. Unexpectedly, HLA class I expression was much higher on RCC cells than on normal renal tubular cells. Immunohistochemistry analysis of frozen and paraffin-embedded tissue samples, applying an extended panel of specific anti-HLA monoclonal antibodies, showed elevated HLA class I antigen expression in 95.6% of the tumors vs only 12.9% of normal renal tissues. These findings were confirmed by molecular analysis of HLA heavy chain and beta2-microglobulin (beta2m) transcription levels using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on microdissected tissue samples (isolated tumor nests and autologous normal renal tubules) from four patients. These results might help to explain the relatively high success rate of immunotherapy in patients with RCC. The molecular mechanism underlying the increased HLA class I expression in RCC has yet to be elucidated.