Expression of isoforms of the CD44 hyaluronan receptor/lymph-node endothelial receptor by human tumour cells is thought to play a role in tumour growth and metastasis. These isoforms which vary in the length of the extracellular domain are generated by differential RNA splicing that involves the 10 alternative exons (v1 to v10) encoding the membrane proximal region of the molecule. Several tumours have been shown to over-express CD44 containing the v6 exon, and this, together with other evidence, has led to the suggestion that v6 may play a causative role in tumour metastasis. In this report we have compared the expression of CD44 isoforms between different lung tumour lines, including SCLC, squamous-cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and mesothelioma, using both RT-PCR and fluorescent antibody staining with a panel of CD44 exon-specific monoclonal antibodies (MAbs). Our results show large differences in vCD44 expression between individual tumour lines. Little or no vCD44 containing the metastasis-associated v6 exon was detected in most tumours, including the highly metastatic SCLC lines. Indeed, the SCLC lines and some squamous-cell carcinomas contained only very low levels of either vCD44 or CD44H, indicating that CD44 expression may not always correlate with tumour development or dissemination. One of the squamous-cell carcinomas studied (HOTZ) was found to express a complex mixture of CD44 splice variants similar to the immortalized normal bronchial epithelial line BEAS-2B. Cloning and sequencing of vCD44 from the HOTZ cell line yielded several splice variants that have also been identified on leukaemic cells, normal keratinocytes and activated peripheral-blood lymphocytes.