Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein enzyme that synthesizes telomeric DNA onto chromosomal ends. Its activity has been reported to be a novel diagnostic marker of malignant potential. However, no study has investigated the diagnostic importance of the expressions of human telomerase mRNA component (hTERC) and telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) mRNA in effusion cytology. We investigated the expressions of hTERC and hTERT using in situ hybridization in 20 malignant cytologic specimens from 20 patients with adenocarcinomas disseminating into the pleura or peritoneum, and 16 benign cytologic specimens in pleural or peritoneal fluid (including reactive mesothelial cells) from 16 patients with non-neoplastic diseases. Expressions of hTERC and hTERT mRNA were detected in 95% and 90% of the 20 malignant cytology specimens, respectively, and were apparent within the cytoplasm of malignant cells. However, no expression was detected in reactive mesothelial cells in the 16 benign cytologic specimens. The expressions of hTERC and hTERT mRNA would appear to be a useful addition to cytology examination for diagnosis based on effusion cytology. Diagn. Cytopathol. 2003;29:212–216. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.