The recently identified FHIT gene encompasses the FRA3B region and the breakpoint of a constitutive t(3;8) occurring in a family with hereditary renal cell cancer. Occurrence of aberrant transcripts in different types of tumours has led to the suggestion that FHIT might play a critical role in the development of various types of cancer. We have analyzed the gene and its transcripts in lung cancers and renal cell cancer-derived cell lines. A lung adenocarcinoma cell line, GLC-A2, appeared to have a homozygous deletion in intron 5 of FHIT. RT-PCR analysis revealed a normal-sized PCR product in all of the cell lines: Including GLC-A2. A number of them had an additional aberrant product. Analysis of a great number of control cell lines and tissues showed that the majority of these also had aberrant PCR products in addition to a normal-sized PCR product. Different specimens of the same cell type showed variable additional RT-PCR products. Normal-sized PCR products had a sequence identical to the FHIT sequence. PCR products longer than normal had insertions of different sizes at different positions. With three exceptions, PCR products shorter than normal represented FHIT sequences missing one or more entire exons. Thus, the presence of aberrant transcripts is not cancer-specific. Conceivably, sequence responsible for the instability of the FRA3B region are being transcribed into FHIT pre-mRNA and may cause the abnormal splicing and processing of the transcripts.