Using a panel of ten polymorphic markers, we examined the frequency of loss of heterozygosity (LOH) on chromosome 17 in 55 sporadic ovarian tumours. LOH on 17p and 17q was observed to be 50% and 62% respectively. LOH at D17S5 was detected in 24/36 (67%) of malignant cases and in 19/43 (44%) at TP53; the marker D17S855 intragenic to the BRCA1 gene showed allele loss in 50% (20/40) cases. The data presented here suggest that loss of the whole chromosome 17 is a relatively frequent event (30%) in ovarian carcinomas and this observation is especially frequent for serous, transitional cell and anaplastic histological subtypes. Mucinous and endometrioid ovarian tumours showed only short interstitial deletions (4/11, 36%). The overall frequency of the short deletions was relatively low (7/43, 16%) in our panel of carcinomas. Amplification of c-erbB-2/neu oncogene was detected in 32% (11/34) of the carcinomas tested; the gene was amplified only in those histological subtypes in which high incidence of LOH on chromosome 17 was observed, and was associated with advanced stages of the disease. We conclude that different histological types of tumour may have different aetiological mechanisms, and tumour-suppressor genes on chromosome 17 might be associated specifically with serous and transitional cell ovarian carcinomas.