Using a subtractive hybridization method, we have cloned 48 cDNAs which are expressed in human primary myoblasts but down-regulated in the embryonal-rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) cell line RD. Twenty-nine sequences could be identified as coding for previously known gene products, while 19 encode unknown proteins. Twelve clones coding for known proteins that were highly down-regulated in the RD cells were chosen for further analysis on Northern blots containing additional normal and RMS cells. The expression pattern of TGF-beta-induced gene product-3 (beta(ig)H3), inhibitory G-protein alpha sub-unit (G(alpha)i2), osteoblast-specific factor-2 (OSF-2), 22-kDa smooth-muscle protein (SM22), clone A3351 (homologous to mouse talin), testican, thrombospondin-1 and thrombospondin-2 suggests involvement of these proteins in the genesis of the neoplastic phenotype. Among the clones with unknown sequence, several are identical or homologous to expressed sequence tags or known cDNAs, such as integrins or laminin. These results suggest that several isolated clones might have an important role in the determination or maintenance of the normal phenotype, and thus their loss is possibly involved in the progression of malignancy.