Immunohistochemical staining of human breast tissues, using an antibody against fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 [FGFR-3], showed differences in cellular distribution. Both malignant and non-malignant epithelial cells contained FGFR-3 immunoreactivity, but myoepithelial cells and stroma were negative. The staining pattern in malignant epithelial cells was predominantly nuclear, whereas epithelial cells in normal breast tissue showed both cytoplasmic and nuclear elements. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) revealed two isoforms of FGFR-3 corresponding to the FGFR-3-IIIb variant and a previously described exon-deleted nuclear form of FGFR-3, which were present in both malignant and non-malignant epithelial cells. The higher level of nuclear staining and loss of cytoplasmic staining seen in malignant epithelial cells did not correspond to an increase in expression of the exon-deleted form of FGFR-3, nor to any detectable activating point mutations. Since receptor activation can result in its movement to a perinuclear localization, an alternative explanation for the redistribution of FGFR-3-IIIb could be different degrees of activation by a ligand (FGF1 or FGF9). No FGF9 was detected by immunohistochemistry in breast tissues. FGF1, however, is present in the majority of breast cancers and a different tissue distribution of FGF1 was found in breast tissues, showing predominantly nuclear, or a mix of nuclear and cytoplasmic FGFR-3. The difference in FGFR-3 staining patterns may implicate this ligand-receptor pair in breast cancer. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.