Gene amplification or structural alteration of different erbB genes exerts a transforming effect in a variety of human neoplasms. Overexpression of the EGF receptor is associated with tumor initiation and progression of renal cell carcinoma (RCC). However, the role of erbB-2 in these processes remains unknown. We investigated 34 renal cell carcinomas for gene amplification and expression of the EGFR and erbB-2 genes at the mRNA and protein level and their relationship to pathological and clinical parameters. No amplification of both genes has been observed. However, high expression of the EGF receptor protein and p185erbB2 was frequent in RCC and statistically significantly related to higher tumor grades. We could demonstrate a close correlation of p185erbB2 overexpression with high EGF receptor levels. Co-overexpression of both receptor types was significantly associated with metastatic disease. Our results suggest a synergistic involvement of both EGF receptor and p185erbB2 in the progression of RCC.