A polymorphism in the nucleic acid sequence encoding the signal peptide of the human prepro-vasopressin (AVP) has been reported in an AVP producing small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) cell line. The difference predicts expression in tumor cells of a variant signal peptide with Pro for Leu 11. To clarify whether this difference is required for AVP secretion from SCLC cells and/or reflects increased mutagenesis in malignant tumors, the exon encoding the signal peptide of prepro-AVP in two AVP producing SCLC and 9 non-producing lung tumors was amplified using polymerase chain reaction. The variant sequence was neither found by direct sequencing nor by restriction enzyme analysis. These results suggest that similar to the hypothalamus the normal signal peptide is functional in tumor cells and that the variant signal peptide is not a prerequisite for AVP secretion from SCLC cells.