The HER2 protooncogene encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase, p185HER2. The overexpression of p185HER2 has been associated with a worsened prognosis in certain human cancers. In the present work we have screened a variety of different tumor cell lines for p185HER2 expression using both enzyme-linked immunosorbent and fluorescence-activated cell sorting assays employing murine monoclonal antibodies directed against the extracellular domain of the receptor. Increased levels of p185HER2 were found in breast (5/9), ovarian (1/6), stomach (2/3) and colorectal (5/16) carcinomas, whereas all kidney and submaxillary adenocarcinoma cell lines tested were negative. Some monoclonal antibodies directed against the extracellular domain of p185HER2 inhibited growth in monolayer culture of breast and ovarian tumor cell lines overexpressing p185HER2, but had no effect on the growth of colon or gastric adenocarcinomas expressing increased levels of this receptor. The most potent growth-inhibitory anti-p185HER2 monoclonal antibody in monolayer culture, designated mumAb 4D5 (a murine IgG1 kappa antibody), was also tested in soft-agar growth assays for activity against p185HER2-overexpressing tumor cell lines of each type, with similar results. In order to increase the spectrum of tumor types potentially susceptible to monoclonal antibody-mediated anti-p185HER2 therapies, to decrease potential immunogenicity issues with the use of murine monoclonal antibodies for human therapy, and to provide the potential for antibody-mediated cytotoxic activity, a mouse/human chimeric 4D5 (chmAb 4D5) and a "humanized" 4D5 (rhu)mAb 4D5 HER2 antibody were constructed. Both engineered antibodies, in combination with human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, elicited antibody-dependent cytotoxic responses in accordance with the level of p185HER2 expression. Since this cytotoxic activity is independent of sensitivity to mumAb 4D5, the engineered monoclonal antibodies expand the potential target population for antibody-mediated therapy of human cancers characterized by the overexpression of p185HER2.