Childhood neuroblastoma tumours of the sympathetic nervous system show a remarkable clinical heterogeneity ranging from spontaneous regression to unfavourable outcome despite intensive therapy. Favourable neuroblastomas often express high levels of trkA mRNA, encoding the tyrosine kinase receptor for nerve growth factor. We have investigated mRNA expression for the neurotrophin receptor trkC in 23 primary neuroblastomas using a sensitive RNAase protection assay. TrkC expression was detected in 19 of these tumours at highly variable levels with a 300-fold difference between the highest and lowest values. Significantly higher levels of trkC mRNA were found in tumours from patients with favourable features such as low age (P < 0.012), favourable tumour stage (P < 0.012) and favourable prognosis (P < 0.05). Children with intermediate or high trkC mRNA expression had better prognosis compared with those with low or undetectable levels (83.3% vs 20%, P = 0.005). Further characterisation of trkC mRNA expression by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) showed that mRNA encoding the full-length cytoplasmic tyrosine kinase domain of the receptor was only expressed in a subset of favourable tumours. These data show that favourable neuroblastomas may express the full trkC receptor while advanced tumours, in particular MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma, seem to either express no trkC or truncated trkC receptors of as yet unknown biological function. These data are suggestive of a role for trkC and its preferred ligand neutotrophin-3, NT-3, in neuroblastoma differentiation and/or regression.