Human genes MAGE-1 and MAGE-3 code for distinct antigens, which are recognized on melanoma cells by autologous cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTL). These antigens may constitute useful targets for anti-cancer immunotherapy, since no expression of MAGE genes has been observed in normal tissues other than testis. Out of 57 samples of primary transitional-cell carcinomas of the bladder, 12 (21%) expressed MAGE-1 and 20 (35%) expressed MAGE-3. All but one of the tumors expressing MAGE-1 also expressed MAGE-3. Genes MAGE-2 and MAGE-4, which are closely related to MAGE-1 and MAGE-3, were expressed by 30% and 33% of the tumors respectively. MAGE expression was more frequent in advanced tumor stages: 61% of the invasive tumors (stage > or = T2) were positive for expression of at least one of the four genes, whereas only 28% of the superficial tumors (stages Ta and T1) expressed these genes.