Gorlin (or nevoid basal cell carcinoma) syndrome is characterized by a variety of clinical problems including generalized overgrowth of the body, cysts, developmental abnormalities of the skeleton and a predisposition to benign and malignant tumors. The syndrome results from germline mutations of the human homolog of the drosophila segment polarity gene patched (ptc). Here we report that mice heterozygous for ptc develop many of the features characteristic of Gorlin syndrome and that they exhibit a high incidence of rhabdomyosarcomas (RMS), the most common soft-tissue sarcoma in children. The downstream signalling partner of ptc, gli1, was overexpressed in all RMSs analyzed, indicating that abnormal signalling of the ptc-gli1 pathway may be common for the various tumors associated with the syndrome. igf2, implicated in the formation of RMSs, was also overexpressed, suggesting cross-talk between the ptc and igf2 pathways in tumorigenesis. Developmental defects in Gorlin syndrome resemble those induced by ionizing radiation. We show that ptc heterozygous mice exhibit increased incidence of radiation-induced teratogenesis. This suggests a role for ptc in the response to ionizing radiation and provides a model for both the systemic (developmental) and stochastic (cancer) abnormalities observed in Gorlin syndrome.