Epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor expression in 31 primary human bladder tumours was quantitated using both structural and functional assays and the EGF receptor gene in the same tumours was analyzed by Southern blot analysis. Immunocytochemical studies using the EGFR1 monoclonal antibody (Mab) showed a significant correlation between EGF receptor levels and the stage and grade of the tumours. Autophosphorylation assays employed to evaluate the receptor's tyrosine kinase activity gave results which in general were consistent with the immunocytochemical data. Using internally controlled immunocytochemical studies with two Mabs and Southern blot analysis of DNA isolated from the tumours, no evidence was obtained for the production of truncated receptors similar to those encoded by the v-erb-B oncogene. Gene amplification was not found in any of the superficial tumours, but one invasive tumour with high EGF receptor expression had an 8-10 fold amplification of the EGF receptor gene. The EGF receptor isolated from this tumour showed a normal pattern of tyrosine phosphorylation at all three major autophosphorylation sites. Our detailed study is consistent with the correlation previously found between EGF receptor expression and stage and grade of bladder tumours, and suggests that at this level of analysis EGF receptors in bladder tumours are not abnormal in structure or size, autophosphorylation activity, or gene structure.