To evaluate the clinical significance of N-ras mutations in the myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) archival bone marrow samples from 252 patients were studied for the presence of N-ras exon I mutations using polymerase chain reaction amplification and differential oligonucleotide hybridization. Subsequently, clinical information about these patients was obtained and analyzed. Of 220 evaluable patients, 20 (9%) had point mutation of N-ras involving codon 12. Individuals with N- ras mutation had a significantly shorter survival period than those who were N-ras negative (P = .02). An increased risk of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) was also found in patients with N-ras mutations (P = .005). N-ras mutations were not associated with any French-American- British (FAB) subtype, with the presence of increased myeloblasts, or with chromosomal aberrations in the bone marrow. However, the presence of increased bone marrow blasts was strongly associated with poor survival rate and risk of AML (P < .001 for each). After stratifying for the percentage of blasts, N-ras mutations remained significantly associated with shorter survival period (P = .04) and increased risk of AML (P = .02). Bone marrow cytogenetic abnormalities, particularly when multiple abnormalities were present, were significantly associated with a poor prognosis (P < .001). In conclusion, N-ras mutation, although relatively infrequent in MDS, is associated with short survival period and increased probability of developing AML.