We have determined the frequency of EWS fusion transcripts in a series of primary Ewing's sarcomas and peripheral primitive neuroectodermal tumors and cells lines. Type 1 and 2 EWS-Fli1 fusions were demonstrated in 8 cell lines and 14 patient samples. Five patients with cytogenetically characterized rearrangements of chromosome 22 that did not involve chromosome 11 were included in these studies. A novel EWS-Fli1 in-frame isoform fusing EWS to exon 8 of Fli1 was isolated from a tumor with a variant t(12;22;22)(q14;p1;q12) translocation. Three in-frame isoforms of a novel hybrid transcript derived from the fusion of EWS with the ETS domain of the human erg gene were identified in patient samples and a cell line with cytogenetically unidentified or cryptic translocations involving chromosomes 21 and 22. Interphase analysis by fluorescent in situ suppression hybridization using two overlapping erg yeast artificial chromosome clones demonstrated disruption of the erg gene on chromosome 21 in a patient sample with monosomy 22. Our results provide new information about the involvement of EWS in small round cell tumors involving exchange of its putative RNA-binding domain with DNA-binding domains derived from different members of the ETS family of transcription factors. These studies emphasize the utility of reverse transcriptase PCR analysis and fluorescent in situ hybridization as additional diagnostic tools for differential diagnosis among small round cell tumors.