Complete or partial deletions of the long arm of chromosome 7 (7q- and -7) are nonrandom abnormalities seen in primary and therapy-induced myelodysplasia (MDS) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Monosomy 7, occurring as the sole cytogenetic anomaly in a small but significant number of cases, may denote a dominant mechanism involving critical tumor suppressor gene(s). We have determined the extent of allele loss in cytogenetically prescreened MDS and AML patients for microsatellite markers from chromosome 7q22 and 7q31. Whereas >80% of these cases revealed allele loss for the entire region, a rare case of the 7q- chromosome showed allele loss for only the proximal 7q31.1 loci flanked by the markers D7S486 and D7S2456, and a case of monosomy 7 revealed allele loss for loci at both 7q31 and 7q22 with retention of sequences between these sets of loci. Furthermore, a case of AML with no cytogenetic anomaly of chromosome 7 revealed a submicroscopic allelic imbalance for a third distal locus, D7S677. These findings suggest the presence of three distinct critical loci that may contribute alone or in combination to the evolution of MDS and AML. The data also provide molecular evidence for unbalanced translocation with noncontiguous deletions, as an alternate mechanism underlying monosomy 7.