We examined mRNA expression and internal tandem duplication of the Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3) gene in haematological malignancies by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and genomic PCR followed by sequencing. By RT-PCR, expression of FLT3 was detected in 45/74 (61%) leukaemia cell lines and the frequency of expression of FLT3 was significantly higher in undifferentiated type (B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia; ALL) than in differentiated type cell lines (B-ALL) (P = 0.0076). Using the genomic PCR method, 194 fresh samples including 87 acute myeloid leukaemias, 60 ALLs, 32 myelodysplastic syndromes (MDSs) and 15 juvenile chronic myelogenous leukaemias (JCMLs) were examined. Tandem duplication was found in 12 (13.8%) AMLs and two (3.3%) ALLs. Sequence analyses of the 14 samples with the duplication revealed that eight showed a simple tandem duplication and six a tandem duplication with insertion. Most of these tandem duplications occurred within exon 11, and two duplications occurred from exon 11 to intron 11 and exon 12. No tandem duplications of FLT3 gene were detected in MDS or JCML. The frequency of tandem duplication of FLT3 gene in childhood AML was lower than that in adult AML so far reported. All of the 12 AML patients with the duplication died within 47 months after diagnosis, whereas two ALL patients with the duplication have survived 44 and 72 months, respectively. These two ALL patients expressed both lymphoid and myeloid antigens and were considered to have biphenotypic leukaemia. These results suggest that tandem duplication is involved in ALL in addition to AML, but not in childhood MDS or JCML, and that childhood AML patients with the tandem duplication have a poor prognosis.