We studied the DNA sequence of the entire coding region of ERCC1 gene, in five cell lines established from human ovarian cancer (A2780, A2780/CP70, MCAS, OVCAR-3, SK-OV-3), 29 human ovarian cancer tumor tissue specimens, one human T-lymphocyte cell line (H9), and non-malignant human ovary tissue (NHO). Samples were assayed by PCR-SSCP and DNA sequence analyses. A silent mutation at codon 118 (site for restriction endonuclease MaeII) in exon 4 of the gene was detected in MCAS, OVCAR-3 and SK-OV-3 cells, and NHO. This mutation was a C-->T transition, that codes for the same amino acid: asparagine. This transition converts a common codon usage (AAC) to an infrequent codon usage (AAT), whereas frequency of use is reduced two-fold. This base change was associated with a detectable band shift on SSCP analysis. For the 29 ovarian cancer specimens, the same base change was observed in 15 tumor samples and was associated with the same band shift in exon 4. Cells and tumor tissue specimens that did not contain the C-->T transition, did not show the band shift in exon 4. Our data suggest that this alteration at codon 118 within the ERCC1 gene, may exist in platinum-sensitive and platinum-resistant ovarian cancer tissues.