Nuclear retinoic-acid-binding activity and the expression of retinoic acid receptor mRNA (RAR-alpha and RAR-beta) were assayed in the F9 embryonal carcinoma, HeLa, HL-60 promyelocytic leukaemia and S91 melanoma cell lines. A 4-svedberg nuclear retinoic-acid-binding activity was detected in all 4 cell lines, but the levels in the HeLa and HL-60 cells were lower than in the F9 and S91 lines. RAR-alpha mRNA was expressed in all 4 cell lines, although at a very low level in S91 cells. Conversely, RAR-beta mRNA was expressed in S91 cells and, at a lower level, in F9 cells but was undetectable in HeLa and HL-60 cells. RAR-beta, transcribed and translated in vitro from the cloned cDNA coding region, sedimented at 4 S and this suggests that the 4-svedberg nuclear retinoic-acid-binding activity may represent the retinoic acid receptors.