We investigated the possible role of RET proto-oncogene mutations in the development of sporadic hyperplastic, benign, and malignant parathyroid lesions. DNA extracted from paraffin-embedded specimens of forty parathyroid lesions was screened for RET proto-oncogene point mutations in exons 10, 11, and 16 by nonisotopic polymerase chain reaction-based single-strand conformation polymorphism and heteroduplex gel electrophoresis. The nucleotide sequence of samples with aberrant band patterns was identified by nonisotopic direct sequencing of polymerase chain reaction-amplified DNA. Parathyroids of seven patients with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN 2A) and MEN 2B served as positive controls. None of the eight hyperplastic lesions, three cases of parathyromatosis, ten parathyroid adenomas, eleven carcinomas or one normal parathyroid gland contained mutations in each of the three RET exons tested. Six MEN-2A-associated hyperplastic glands exhibited identical band shifts in the polymerase chain reaction single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis of exon 11, which corresponded to a Cys 634-->Arg substitution in the nucleotide sequence analysis (TGC-->CGC), whereas in the MEN 2B parathyroid specimen a point mutation was found at codon 918 of exon 16 (ATG-->ACG), causing a Met 918-->Thr substitution. Our data indicate that RET mutations of the MEN 2 loci in exons 10, 11, and 16 are not involved in the development of sporadically occurring benign or malignant parathyroid lesions. Furthermore, our results are in accordance with the observation that MEN 2A patients with Cys 634-->Arg (germline) mutations have a higher risk of developing parathyroid disease than those with other mutations at codon 634.