In this study the expression of c-erbB-3 protein was investigated in a range of human ovarian tumours using a monoclonal antibody (RTJ1) raised to a synthetic peptide from the cytoplasmic domain of the human c-erbB-3 protein. A total of 73 samples from 71 patients were graded as negative, weak, moderate or strong according to the intensity of immunohistochemical staining observed, and this was related to tumour characteristics and other clinical parameters. In terms of positivity vs negativity, of the 73 samples examined, 62 (85%) showed positive immunohistochemical staining for c-erbB-3. The majority of all ovarian tumours studied were positive for c-erbB-3 regardless of whether they were malignant (89%), borderline (100%) or benign (61%), however the incidence of positivity was significantly less in the benign group than in overtly malignant tumours (P = 0.03). c-erbB-3 positivity was not significantly associated with either age at diagnosis, tumour stage, differentiation, ploidy, percentage in S-phase or post-operative tumour bulk in malignant tumours. In terms of intensity of staining no significant difference was observed either within the common epithelial group or between this group and tumours of a benign nature. A significantly more intense pattern of c-erbB-3 staining was observed in tumours of borderline malignancy when compared with their overtly malignant counterparts (P = 0.002). Patients presenting with early-stage malignant tumours (I/II) were more likely to display intense tumour staining than those with late-stage disease (III/IV) (P = 0.04). These investigations suggest that c-erbB-3 protein is frequently expressed in both benign and malignant ovarian tumours, and that overexpression is more common in borderline and early invasive lesions.