Previous studies of chimeric animals and human tissues have shown the clonal nature of organ development, giving clues as to the normal development of organs and also to abnormal developments, such as atheromatous plaques. The clonal nature of bladder cancer in female patients has been demonstrated, but little has been known of the clonal development of the normal urothelium. Using an X chromosome inactivation analysis of cells microdissected from histologic slides from the female human bladder, macroscopic urothelial patches of monoclonality were detected. These patches are about 120 mm.2 in size, contain about 2 x 10(6) cells each and reflect the presence of coherent cellular families composed of stem cells and their differentiated derivatives. The large size of these patches was surprising when compared with previously reported patch sizes in other organ systems. The patches most probably are composed of the descendants of the original founder cells, which would suggest that only 200 to 300 cells participated in the formation of the urothelium. The limited number of stem cells, each giving rise to millions of cells may provide an explanation for the "field defect" that is often referred to in the pathogenesis of bladder cancer, as different cell patches may possess different predispositions to tumorigenesis.