A putative tumor suppressor, PTEN/MMAC1 gene at 10q23 was recently identified and found to be mutated in many different human tumors. To determine the role of the PTEN/MMAC1 gene in lung cancer, we screened 34 small cell lung cancer (SCLC) cell lines, 10 SCLC tumors, 13 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines and 10 NSCLC tumors using Denaturing HPLC (DHPLC) and direct sequencing methods. In SCLC, six (18%) of the cell lines and one of the primary tumor samples (10%) showed alterations of the PTEN/MMAC1 gene including point mutations, small fragment deletions, and homozygous deletions. All of the point mutations and small fragment deletions were observed in hemizygously deleted cell lines. In contrast to SCLC, none of the NSCLC tumors or cell lines had mutations in the PTEN/MMAC1 gene. These data indicate that PTEN/MMAC1 mutations contribute to the pathogenesis and neoplastic evolution in SCLC but not in NSCLC.