In order to more clearly define the status of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in prostate cancer, expression of EGFR transcript and protein was analyzed in paired samples of benign and malignant tissues from 30 radical prostatectomy specimens. Prostate tumors and high grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasias (PINs) expressed significantly less EGFR protein than benign tissues or low grade PINs (P < 0.001). Expression of EGFR mRNA was analyzed in a subset of the same samples, and was higher in more prostate tumors than benign specimens (P < 0.05). However, differences in mean mRNA expression between malignant and benign tissues were not significant. EGFR mRNA was expressed at moderate or low levels in equivalent numbers of PIN lesions. These results suggest that, although EGFR mRNA expression is somewhat elevated in prostate tumors, EGFR protein expression may be down-regulated in the same malignant tissues. Furthermore, our data demonstrate phenotypic similarity between prostate tumors and high grade PIN at the level of EGFR protein expression. (C) 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.