It is widely accepted that an accumulation of genetic alterations plays an important role in the genesis of human cancers, but little is known about prostate cancer in this respect. Recent studies have identified regions on chromosome arms 8p, 10q, 16q, and 18q that are frequently deleted in human prostate cancer. We have previously described a loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the Met locus on chromosome band 7q31 in a study of 20 localized prostate tumors. To determine whether a region on the 7q arm is important in the initiation and/or progression of prostate cancer, prostate tissue from 13 patients with confined prostate tumors, 17 with local extracapsular extension, and 13 with metastatic forms were analyzed for LOH, using a DNA probe for RFLP (pMetH) and 8 CA microsatellite repeats (7 on 7q21-q33 and 1 on 7p). Twenty (47%) of the 43 cases studied showed LOH at one or more 7q loci. The most frequently deleted region was chromosome 7q31.1-7q31.2, whereas the centromeric locus on 7q21 was generally conserved. The percentage of LOH was normally distributed around the D7S480 locus. Moreover, the rate of LOH in the 7q31 region was lower in metastatic tumors than in localized tumors. These results strongly suggest the presence of a tumor suppressor gene on the chromosome band 7q31 with an important role in the early stages of prostate cancer.