To investigate the role of tumour-suppressor genes on the short arm of chromosome 3 in the mechanism of tumorigenesis in non-familial renal cell carcinoma, we analysed 55 paired blood-tumour DNA samples for allele loss on chromosome 3p and in the region of known or putative tumour-suppressor genes on chromosomes 5, 11, 17 and 22. Sixty-four per cent (35/55) of informative tumours showed loss of heterozygosity (LOH) of at least one locus on the short arm of chromosome 3, compared with only 13% at the p53 tumour-suppressor gene and 6% at 17q21. LOH at chromosome 5q21 and 22q was uncommon (2-3%). Detailed analysis of the regions of LOH on chromosome 3p suggested that, in addition to the VHL gene in chromosome 3p25-p26, mutations in one or more tumour-suppressor genes in chromosome 3p13-p24 may be involved in the pathogenesis of sporadic renal cell carcinoma (RCC). We also confirmed previous suggestions that chromosome 3p allele loss is not a feature of papillary RCC (P < 0.05).