Reference two-dimensional (2-D) gels are presented for human breast ductal carcinoma and histologically normal tissue. Whole biopsy fragments were analyzed, including epithelial and nonepithelial components. Thirty-five spots have been assigned by gel matching to the human liver SWISS-2DPAGE reference map and/or to the human primary keratinocyte IPG map from the Danish Center for Human Genome. N-terminal microsequencing was applied to confirm randomly chosen matching assignments and to identify six new spots. Protein expression profiles in ductal carcinoma and in normal breast tissue appeared to be similar, except for a pattern consisting of 32 spots, which were highly expressed in all carcinoma specimens, and less intense and occasionally undetectable in normal tissue. This difference was statistically significant. Assignment has been obtained for several spots, namely GRP94, GRP78, GRP75, mitochondrial HSP60, calreticulin, protein disulfide isomerase, peptidyl-prolyl cis-trans isomerase, collagen-binding protein 2, fructose bisphosphate aldolase, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, thioredoxin, cytochrome c oxidase VA subunit, tubulin beta isoform and macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF). The cancer- and tissue-specificity of the described pattern was assessed by matching to the Swiss-2DPAGE human liver, hepatoma, lymphoma, erythroleukemia reference maps. The pattern of 32 spots was found to be indicative of epithelial neoplasia.