Intermediate filament proteins and actin isoforms of a series of 12 malignant hemangiopericytomas and five glomus tumors were examined by light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2D-GE), and by immunohistochemistry, the latter using monoclonal or affinity-purified polyclonal antibodies to desmin, vimentin, cytokeratins, alpha-smooth muscle, and alpha-sarcomeric actins. By light microscopy, all hemangiopericytomas disclosed a predominant vascular pattern with scant storiform, myxoid and spindle cell areas, and with variable degrees of perivascular fibrosis. By ultrastructure, smooth muscle differentiation was observed in each hemangiopericytoma. Immunohistochemically, neoplastic cells of hemangiopericytomas expressed vimentin as the sole intermediate filament protein and lacked alpha-smooth muscle or alpha-sarcomeric actins. 2D-GE revealed only beta and gamma actins, in proportions typical for fibroblastic tissues. Glomus tumors revealed vimentin and alpha-smooth muscle actin within glomus cells by immunohistochemical techniques and disclosed ultrastructurally distinct smooth muscle differentiation. Therefore hemangiopericytomas represent a distinct soft-tissue neoplasm with uniform morphologic, immunohistochemical, and biochemical features most likely related to glomus tumors, the former representing an aggressive and potentially malignant neoplasm of vascular smooth muscle cells and the latter a well-differentiated neoplasm of vascular smooth muscle cells. Because malignant hemangiopericytomas disclose smooth muscle differentiation by ultrastructure, but do not express alpha-smooth muscle actin, as normal pericytes and glomus cells, it is suggested that these neoplasms represent highly vascularized smooth muscle neoplasms, ie, poorly differentiated leiomyosarcomas derived from vascular smooth muscle cells or their equivalent, the pericytes, which have lost alpha-smooth muscle actin as a differentiation marker that is similar to many conventional poorly differentiated leiomyosarcomas.