Estrogen-binding receptors (ER) and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) receptors were observed in the cytosol and in a membrane particulate fraction, respectively, in most neoplastic and nonneoplastic human thyroid tissues. Fourteen of 15 thyroid neoplasms and 6 of 15 nonneoplastic thyroid specimens had estrogen receptors (assuming the sensitivity of our estrogen receptor assay is 0.2 fmole/mg protein), and 14 of 15 thyroid neoplasms and 11 of 15 nonneoplastic thyroid specimens had a high affinity, low capacity TSH receptor. Neoplastic thyroid tissue had more ER (2.35 +/- 0.70/fmole/mg protein) than nonneoplastic thyroid tissue (0.57 +/- 0.181/fmole/mg protein) removed from the same patients (P less than 0.05). The Kd for ER did not differ in nonneoplastic (0.41 +/- 0.090 nM) and neoplastic (0.311 +/- 0.048 nM) thyroid tissue. The number of TSH receptors was comparable in neoplastic (0.609 +/- 0.191 pmole/mg protein) and in nonneoplastic (0.765 +/- 0.181 pmole/mg protein) thyroid tissue removed from the same patients who had the ER studies. The maximal adenylate cyclase response to TSH was greater in the neoplastic (147 +/- 26.9 pmole/mg protein/30 min) than in nonneoplastic thyroid tissue (32.8 +/- 6.69 pmole/mg protein/30 min) (P less than 0.001) suggesting a greater metabolic responsiveness of the neoplastic thyroid tissue to TSH. No correlation was evident, however, between the number of estrogen and TSH receptors in nonneoplastic and neoplastic thyroid tissue (r = 0.226). This study demonstrates that neoplastic human thyroid tissues have both estrogen receptors and TSH receptors. The neoplastic tissue also has a greater AC response to TSH than nonneoplastic thyroid tissue.