Rhabdoid tumors of the kidney are highly malignant neoplasms that occur primarily within the first 3 years of life. Although they are regarded as distinct from Wilms' tumors, their pathogenesis remains unclear. Whereas most cytogenetic studies of these tumors have revealed normal karyotypes, a few reports have indicated abnormalities at chromosome regions 22q and 11p15.5. We analyzed 30 primary renal rhabdoid tumors for loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at both regions and found that 24 of 30 tumors (80%) had LOH at chromosome arm 22q and that 5 of 30 (17%) had LOH at chromosome band 11p15.5. All of the five tumors with LOH at chromosome arm 11p also had LOH at chromosome arm 22q. The data suggest that there is a gene in chromosome 22, probably a tumor suppressor, inactivation of which may be involved in the genesis of renal rhabdoid tumors. A second gene in chromosome segment 11p15.5, in the region of the putative WT2 gene, may also be involved, in at least a subset of rhabdoid tumors. In addition, five tumors were characterized by microsatellite instability at three or more of 21 loci examined, suggesting a possible role for a replicative error in tumorigenesis or progression in some cases of renal rhabdoid tumors. Genes Chromosom Cancer 15:10-17 (1996).