Epidermal growth factor (EGF), through interaction with specific cell surface receptors, generates a pleiotropic response that, by a poorly defined mechanism, can induce proliferation of target cells. Subversion of the EGF mitogenic signal through expression of a truncated receptor may be involved in transformation by the avian erythroblastosis virus (AEV) oncogene v-erb-B, suggesting that similar EGF receptor defects may be found in human neoplasias. Overexpression of EGF receptors has been reported on the epidermoid carcinoma cell line A431, in various primary brain tumours and in squamous carcinomas. In A431 cells the receptor gene is amplified. Here we show that 4 of 10 primary brain tumours of glial origin which express levels of EGF receptors that are higher than normal also have amplified EGF receptor genes. Amplified receptor genes were not detected in the other brain tumours examined. Further analysis of EGF receptor defects may show that such altered expression and amplification is a particular feature of certain human tumours.