Using G-banding technique, the chromosomes were studied in short-term cultures of 25 primary renal-cell carcinomas (RCC). Phytohaemagglutinin-stimulated peripheral blood lymphocytes or normal kidney cells of the same patients growing in primary cultures were analysed to define the constitutional karyotype. The modal chromosome number of 23 RCC's was found to be pseudo-diploid or near-diploid with only few structural rearrangements, 22 of the RCC's showed an aberration of chromosome 3, deletion of 3p, or translocation of different chromosome segments to the deleted chromosome 3, leading to the loss of variable segments of chromosome 3. The breakpoints in rearrangements of chromosome 3 clustered in the region 3p11.2–p13. Shortest-region overlap analysis localized a consistent change to a small area of 3p13-pter. In 8 of the 25 RCCs, the rearrangement of chromosome 3 was the only karyotype change determined, and 4 other tumours had only one chromosomal rearrangement in addition to the aberration of chromosome 3. These results suggest that the aberration of chromosome 3 is the first cytogenetic event in the clonal evolution of RCCs. Translocation 3;5 was preferentially involved in the rearrangements between chromosome 3p and other chromosomes. The breakpoint on chromosome 3 was constant at p13, but the breaks on chromosome 5 varied between bands q11.2 and q22. Monosomy 14 was observed in 10 cases and loss of Y chromosome was detected in 6 of 14 tumours obtained from male patients. Since the normal somatic cells were free of chromosomal aberrations, one may conclude that the loss of 3p13-pter segment is an acquired, consistent chromosomal aberration which marks human RCCs.