Cancer/testis genes are potential targets for therapeutic genetic and immunologic approaches, and are highly expressed in a large variety of human cancers. However, they are not expressed in normal tissues, with the exception of the testis. The NY-ESO-1 gene is the most recently identified member of the cancer/testis family and its product is one of the most immunogenic tumor antigens. We used immunohistochemistry to investigate the expression of NY-ESO-1 in healthy human prenatal and adult testes and in 59 human testicular tumors of different subtypes. We found that NY-ESO-1 was expressed from 18 weeks until birth in human fetal testes. In the adult testis, NY-ESO-1 was strongly expressed in spermatogonia and in primary spermatocytes, but not in post-meiotic cells or in testicular somatic cells. NY-ESO-1 was not expressed in the Sertoli cells, Leydig cells, classical seminomas, or nonseminomatous germ cells in the 59 testicular tumors. In contrast, NY-ESO-1 was expressed both in carcinomas in situ, which are the earliest stage of testicular tumors (7 of 15 cases), and in spermatocytic seminomas, which are believed to be derived from spermatogonia or primary spermatocytes (8 of 16 cases). We conclude that NY-ESO-1 is a marker that can be used to follow the early progression of testicular tumorigenesis when the tumors present a similar pattern of expression to the cells from which they originated, although the later tumors cease to express NY-ESO-1.