The EVI1 gene encodes a zinc-finger, DNA-binding protein originally described as the transforming gene associated with a common ecotropic viral insertion site in myeloid leukemias. Previous studies demonstrated EVI1 expression in human leukemias in cases with 3q26 translocations, but not in normal blood or bone marrow. These studies also suggested an association between EVI1 expression and chromosome 7 deletion (del). Because of this association, we examined expression of EVI1 using RNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute leukemia with and without 3q26 translocations. EVI1 RNA was expressed in 29% of 34 (95% confidence interval, 20% to 50%) patients with the MDS subtypes refractory anemia (RA), refractory anemia with excess blasts (RAEB), or refractory anemia with excess blasts in transformation (RAEB-T). The vast majority of these cases occurred in patients with RAEB and RAEB-T. EVI1 expression was not detected in patients with chronic myelomonocytic leukemia (CMML), normal bone marrow or cord blood, or a variety of other hematologic malignancies. EVI1 RNA was detected in three of 18 patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and in two of four patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Karyotypes showed that only one AML patient had karyotype 3q26 abnormalities, indicating that EVI1 expression is associated with cases that do not have structural abnormalities involving chromosome 3q26. These studies document for the first time the abnormal expression of EVI1 RNA by patients with MDS, and suggest an important role for EVI1 in the pathogenesis or progression of some myeloid malignancies.