Oestrogen action is mediated via specific receptors that act as ligand-activated transcription factors. A monoclonal antibody specific to the C-terminus of human oestrogen receptor beta has been characterized and the prevalence of expression of oestrogen receptor beta protein investigated in a well defined set of breast cancers. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis of RNA from tissue biopsies detected oestrogen receptor beta in all samples examined. The anti-oestrogen receptor beta antibody cross reacted specifically with both long (~59 Kd) and short (~53 Kd) forms of recombinant oestrogen receptor beta. Western blot analysis of breast tumours contained both forms of oestrogen receptor beta protein although in some samples lower molecular weight species (32–45 Kd) were identified. Fifty-one breast cancer biopsies were examined using immunohistochemistry; 41 (80%) were immunopositive for oestrogen receptor alpha, 48 (94%) were immunopositive for oestrogen receptor beta and 38 (74.5%) co-expressed both receptors. Expression of oestrogen receptor beta was exclusively nuclear and occurred in multiple cell types. There was no quantitative relationship between staining for the two ERs although in tumours in which both receptors were present immunoexpression of oestrogen receptor alpha was invariably more intense. The significance of oestrogen receptor beta protein expression in breast cancers to therapy remains to be determined but the availability of a well characterized antibody capable of detecting oestrogen receptor beta in archive material will facilitate the process.