To evaluate the role of chromosome 13 deletions in oral squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) progression and to define the precise localization of putative tumor suppressor genes, we studied tumors from 34 unrelated patients with oral SCC by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-loss of heterozygosity (LOH) assay, using 18 different polymorphic loci. Chromosome 13q allelic losses (LOH) were observed in 67.6% at 1 or more loci. These results enabled the identification of a putative minimal region of deletion mapped at 13q14.3. The commonly deleted region is located close, but telomeric to the RB1 locus. We also examined the same samples for inactivation of the RB1 gene by immunohistochemical analysis of paraffin-embedded samples, but no significant variation in RB protein expression was detected. In addition, we also performed PCR-single-strand conformational polymorphism (SSCP) analysis to detect any mutation of the RB1 gene using 52 primer pairs, which covers all exons of this gene. We found no mutations of the RB1 gene in our samples. Interestingly, we found significant correlation between LOH of 13q14.3 and lymph node metastasis. Our results indicate that LOH of 13q is a common event in oncogenesis and/or progression of oral SCC, and also suggest the existence of a new suppressor gene near D13S273-D13S176 loci which may play a role in these events.