A decrease in the intracellular concentrations of the transcripts for some tumor suppressor genes has been found during murine lung tumorigenesis; for p15INK4b and p16INK4a, this was due to homozygous deletions. We report here a decrease in the mRNA levels of the mutated in colorectal cancer (Mcc) and adenomatous polyposis coli (Apc) genes in mouse lung tumors and some neoplastic cell lines. This was assessed both by northern blotting and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction of RNA isolated from lung tumors that had been induced by urethane, N-nitrosodiethylamine, or 3-methylcholanthrene in (A/J x C57BL/6) F1 or A/J mice. A reduced amount of both Mcc and Apc messages was also seen when two neoplastic cell lines, a spontaneous transformant (E9) and a line derived from a chemically induced solid tumor (82-132), were compared with two independently derived nontumorigenic cell lines (E10 and C10); E9 was derived from E10, and all of these lines are probably of alveolar type 2 cell origin. A cell line derived from a chemically induced papillary lung tumor probably of bronchiolar Clara cell origin (LM2) had Mcc mRNA levels similar to those of C10 and E10 but reduced Apc mRNA levels. A line (p53-823) derived from a papillary tumor that arose in a mouse with a mutated p53 transgene had a reduced amount of the Mcc gene product only. These differential changes in the relative amounts of Apc and Mcc messages in LM2 and p53-823) cells may serve as useful models for studying the regulation of their expression. Both messages had half-lives of 6-9 h in normal E10 and neoplastic E9 cells, so decreased message stability does not account for these reductions. This is the first report of estimated degradation rates of these mRNAs. Apc and Mcc message content did not vary as a function of growth status of the cell lines. Single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis did not reveal mutations in Apc coding regions known to have a high mutation frequency in human colon tumors. Loss of heterozygosity of Apc and Mcc was not found in tumors that developed in the F1 mice, implying a lack of allelic deletions. These changes in tumor suppressor gene expression may contribute to the development and maintenance of neoplasia in lung epithelium.