To study abnormalities of the FHIT gene in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), eight liver cancer cell lines, 18 matched tumorous and non-tumorous tissues from patients with HCC and three normal liver tissues were analysed by microsatellite polymorphism analysis and reverse transcription of FHIT mRNA followed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification and sequencing of the products. No loss of heterozygosity at chromosome 3p14.2 as defined by markers D3S1300 and D3S1312 was detected in any of the specimens. In addition, a normal transcript of the gene without any sequence change was found to be expressed in all the cell lines, 17 of the 18 tumorous and all 21 non-tumorous liver tissues tested. Although five out of eight liver cancer cell lines (62.5%), 12 out of 18 HCC tissues (66.7%) and 8 out of 18 paired non-tumorous liver tissues (44.4%) displayed abnormal faint bands of smaller size, sequence analysis revealed that they were aberrant FHIT transcripts lacking three or more exons and might represent alternatively spliced transcripts only. In conclusion, these studies indicate that abnormalities of the FHIT gene transcripts occur in a fairly high frequency of tumorous and non-tumorous liver tissues. However, it might not be causally related to the hepatocarcinogenesis.