The protein designated 7B2 is a recently discovered pituitary polypeptide which is selectively expressed in cells containing secretory granules, such as neurons and endocrine cells. Northern blot analysis of 7B2 gene expression in small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC) cell lines revealed that 7B2 was expressed in all nine cell lines of the classic type tested, but in six of seven SCLC cell lines of the variant type, 7B2 expression could not be detected. In only one of four non-SCLC cell lines tested, 7B2 was expressed. Furthermore, in 16 primary human non-SCLCs, no or only very low expression of 7B2 was found. In the eight primary human SCLCs tested, expression of 7B2 appeared variable: three exhibited a high level of expression; three a low level; while in two cases, expression was very low or not detectable at all. Finally, the three carcinoid tumors tested expressed very high levels of 7B2 mRNA. These data indicate that the 7B2 gene is a useful marker not only to discriminate between classic and variant types of SCLC cell lines, but also in human lung cancer diagnosis.