The high incidence of allelic imbalance on the long arm of chromosome 16 in breast cancer suggests its involvement in the development and progression of the tumor. Several loss of heterozygosity (LOH) studies have led to the assignment of commonly deleted regions on 16q where tumor suppressor genes may be located. The most recurrent LOH regions have been 16q22.1 and 16q22.4-qter. The aim of this study was to gain further insight into the occurrence of one or multiple "smallest regions of overlap" on 16q in a new series of breast carcinomas. Hence, a detailed allelic imbalance map was constructed for 46 sporadic breast carcinomas, using 11 polymorphic microsatellite markers located on chromosome 16. Allelic imbalance of one or more markers on 16q was shown by 30 of the 46 tumors (65%). Among these 30 carcinomas, LOH on the long arm of chromosome 16 was detected at all informative loci in 19 (41%); 13 of them showed allelic imbalance on the long but not on the short arm, with the occurrence of variable "breakpoints" in the pericentromeric region. The partial allelic imbalance in 11 tumors involved either the 16q22.1-qter LOH region or interstitial LOH regions. A commonly deleted region was found between D16S421 and D16S289 on 16q22.1 in 29 of the 30 tumors. The present data argue in favor of an important involvement of a tumor suppressor gene mapping to 16q22.1 in the genesis or progression of breast cancer.