To investigate the relationship of oncogene analysis to morphology, we analyzed K-ras gene mutations by dot-blot hybridization with and without consideration of histological atypias in individual colorectal adenomas. Each of 54 colon polyps were divided into two parts after fixation. One part was used as a mass to assess point mutations; the remaining portion of each polyp was paraffin-embedded, stained with hematoxylin and eosin, and examined for point mutations related to histological atypias. In the first part of our study, K-ras gene mutations at codon 12 were detected in 13 cases (24%). In the second part of our study, 12 cases had distinctly different histological atypias. From each of these 12 cases, two areas, one with higher or one with lower grade atypia in the same polyp were excised to analyze for K-ras gene mutation. Two of these 12 cases (17%) had the mutation in different areas of the same tumor. These two cases contained the mutation only in the areas with higher grade atypia, and only one case added information regarding ras mutation upon microdissection when compared to the entire biopsy. These results suggest that oligonucleotide hybridization can identify the majority of cases containing ras mutations despite regional morphologic variation. Individual cases, however, may contain clonal subpopulations within adenomas with different ras sequences from other regions within the same adenoma.