The human MUC1 gene expresses at least 2 type 1 membrane proteins: MUC1/REP, a polymorphic high m.w. MUC1 glycoprotein often highly expressed in breast cancer tissues and containing a variable number of tandem 20 amino acid repeat units, and the MUC1/Y protein, which lacks this repeat array and, therefore, is not polymorphic. Despite their documented importance in signal transduction processes, the relative expression of the 2 isoforms in epithelial tumors is unknown. Using antibody reagents which recognize different MUC1 domains, the expression of these isoforms in malignant epithelial cells has been evaluated. A comparison of the amounts of the 2 isoforms revealed preferential expression of the novel MUC1/Y protein in breast cancer tissue samples. Furthermore, although the MUC1/REP protein is almost undetectable in HeLa cervical adenocarcinoma epithelial cells, the MUC1/Y isoform is extensively expressed in these cells. The presence of the MUC1/Y sequence as well as that of an additional tandem-repeat-array-lacking isoform, designated MUC1/X, were demonstrated by reverse transcriptase PCR amplification of RNA extracted from HeLa and ovarian carcinoma cells. It has been shown previously that the MUC1 cytoplasmic domain interacts with the SH2 domain containing GRB2 protein, which transduces signals to ras, a protein which in its activated form can lead to cell transformation. We present here data demonstrating that MUC1/Y isoform expression increases the tumorigenic potential of DA3 mouse mammary epithelial cells; in contrast, potentiation of tumorigenicity is not observed with MUC1/REP expression. Our studies thus demonstrate that expression of the MUC1 gene in epithelial tumors can give rise to substantial levels of MUC1 proteins devoid of the tandem repeat array, which are generated by alternative splicing mechanisms.