Twenty-one tumors from 18 patients (two independent tumors were obtained from each of three patients) with hepatocellular carcinomas were examined for loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at loci on chromosome 13q, using 15 polymorphic nucleotide sequences of microsatellites as genetic markers. The results revealed LOH in a common region between the centromeric D13S127 locus (13q12.2-q14.1) and the telomeric D13S137 (13q14.3) locus, including the RB1 locus, in nine of 21 tumors. Immunohistochemical staining of paraffin-embedded tumor sections indicated loss of retinoblastoma (RB) protein expression in all tumors showing LOH except one. Absence of RB protein expression was also observed in three of 12 tumors without LOH. Single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis of polymerase chain reaction products using primers flanking all 27 exons of the RB1 gene, as well as nucleotide sequencing, revealed tumor-specific small deletions of the RB1 coding region in the remaining RB1 allele of two tumors having LOH at the RB1 locus with concomitant loss of RB protein expression. Our results indicate that the loss of a region of chromosome 13q including the RB1 locus significantly (P < 0.006) correlates with loss of RB protein in hepatocellular carcinomas. However, tumor-specific mutations of the RB1 gene were detected in only two of 13 tumors with LOH and/or lack of RB protein expression, indicating that analysis of the RB1 status at the protein level in these tumors may be more sensitive than the actual mutational analysis.