Expression of hCG and its free subunits by non-trophoblastic tumours is well recognised. Previously we reported hCG secretion by normal and malignant bladder epithelial cells in vitro. Here we examined culture medium from 83 different cell lines derived mainly from common epithelial tumours. Thirty-two of the cell lines were found to secrete hCG-like material into their culture media. Partial immunochemical characterisation showed that of these only choriocarcinoma and fetal tissue cell lines produced intact hCG and alpha subunit. The remaining 28 hCG-expressing epithelial cell lines, which are of mucosal origin, only secreted free beta subunit. Expression of free beta hCG by non-trophoblastic nonendocrine cells would appear to be especially characteristic of mucosal epithelia from the genitourinary and oral/respiratory tracts. Furthermore, this phenomenon may be characteristic of epithelium with transitional and/or squamous cell-like properties.