Alteration in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expression is frequently associated with malignant transformation of epithelial tissues, including oral mucosa. This study examines the mutations in the coding region of the human EGFR gene in normal and malignant human oral keratinocytes. To examine the intragenic mutations in the human EGFR gene, a panel of normal and malignant human oral keratinocytes were examined by a nonisotopic RNase cleavage assay. Two consistent alterations were detected. First, a polymorphism, which generates a unique BsrI restriction site, was detected at position 2073. This BsrI polymorphism was present only in malignant keratinocytes. Second, Southern blot hybridization of PCR products revealed that there is a truncated EGFR mRNA (approximately 1.5-kb) in oral squamous cell carcinoma cell lines. Similar analysis in normal cell lines revealed that this truncated EGFR transcript is also present. Immunoblotting revealed the presence of this truncated form of EGFR in all keratinocyte cell lines. These data permit us to conclude that there exists a novel truncated form of EGFR in human oral keratinocytes. Furthermore, there exists a tumor-associated BsrI polymorphic site at position 2073. The potential biological relevance of the truncated receptor and the utility of the BsrI polymorphic site for diagnostic applications are currently being explored.