We examined the steady-state expression levels of mRNA for the MUC1, MUC2, MUC3 and MUC4 gene products in 12 pancreatic tumor cell lines, 6 colon tumor cell lines, and one ileocecal tumor cell line. The results showed that 10 of 12 pancreatic tumor cell lines expressed MUC1 mRNA and that 7 of these 12 lines also expressed relatively high levels of MUC4 mRNA. In contrast, MUC2 mRNA was expressed at only low levels and MUC3 was not detected in the pancreatic tumor cell lines. All 7 intestinal tumor cell lines examined expressed MUC2, and 5 of 7 expressed MUC3; however only one expressed significant levels of MUC1 and 2 expressed low levels of MUC4 mRNA. This report of high levels of MUC4 mRNA expression by pancreatic tumor cells raises the possibility that mucin carbohydrate epitopes defined by antibodies such as DuPan 2 may be expressed on a second mucin core protein produced by pancreatic tumor cells.