The molecular genetic alterations of oligodendroglial tumors and mixed gliomas of the central nervous system were studied in a series of 37 cases (8 oligodendrogliomas, 13 anaplastic oligodendrogliomas, 8 oligoastrocytomas, and 8 anaplastic oligoastrocytomas). A total of 180 polymorphic loci and 5 nonpolymorphic gene loci, distributed over all chromosomes, were examined by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. Loss of heterozygosity was most frequently observed for loci on 19q with a commonly deleted region at 19q13.2-q13.4 distal to the CYP2a gene and proximal to the D19S22 locus. The incidence of allelic loss on 19q was particularly high (81%) in oligodendroglial tumors and equal to 31% in mixed gliomas. More than 75% of the tumors with allelic deletions on 19q also showed loss of heterozygosity for loci on 1p with one tumor showing only loss of alleles distal to the NGFB gene (1p13-pter). Seven (19%) tumors had lost alleles from 17p with the deleted region including the TP53 tumor suppressor gene in all cases. Sequencing of the TP53 transcripts from exons 2 to 10, however, did not reveal mutations of the remaining allele in any of these tumors. Anaplastic oligodendrogliomas and anaplastic oligoastrocytomas demonstrated an increased incidence of additional allelic losses involving most frequently chromosomes 9p and 10. Gene amplification was detected in two anaplastic tumors, affecting the epidermal growth factor receptor gene in both cases, with additional amplification of the renin gene at 1q32 in one of these cases. In total our results indicate both differences and similarities between the molecular genetic alterations in tumors with oligodendroglial and astrocytic differentiation. The loss of genetic information from 19q and 1p as well as the rarity of TP53 mutations in oligodendroglial tumors suggests that the early events in their oncogenesis are distinct from those associated with astrocytic tumors. However, similarities are indicated by the allelic losses on 9p and 10 in the anaplastic tumors, suggesting the utilization of common pathways of progression.