The human epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor is known to be homologous to the v-erb B oncogene protein of the avian erythroblastosis virus. Overexpression of the EGF receptor gene in A431 epidermoid carcinoma cells is due to gene amplification. In this study, a variety of squamous cell carcinomas were examined and one, SCC-15, contained high levels of the EGF receptor as determined by immunoprecipitation via an EGF receptor-specific polyclonal antibody. Using a cloned EGF receptor complementary DNA as a probe, the level of EGF receptor RNA was found to be elevated four-fold in SCC-15 relative to normal cultured keratinocytes. When the same probe was used to identify EGF receptor gene fragments on a genomic DNA blot, the SCC-15 cell line was shown to possess an EGF receptor gene copy number amplified four to five times. Gene amplification results in the enhancement in the level of the EGF receptor in several carcinomas and could be responsible for the appearance of the transformed phenotype in these cells.