Mutations in mitotic checkpoint genes have been detected in several human cancers, and these cancers exhibit chromosomal instability. Aneuploid stem cells seem to result from chromosomal instability and have been reported in many lung cancers. To determine whether alteration of mitotic checkpoint regulators is involved in carcinogenesis and tumor progression in primary lung cancer, we screened the genomic DNA sequence of 30 human lung cancer cell lines and 30 primary lung cancer tumors for a mutation in the hBUB1 mitotic checkpoint gene. First, we designed 26 sets of intron-based primers to amplify each of the 25 exons of the hBUB1 gene to examine the entire coding region of the hBUB1 gene. Using these primers, we performed polymerase chain reaction-single strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) analysis as well as direct sequencing in the mutation analysis of the hBUB1 gene. Three different nucleotide substitutions were detected in the coding region of the hBUB1 gene in some of the cancer cell lines and primary tumors as follows. The hBUB1 gene of one adenocarcinoma tumor contained a somatic missense mutation, a cytosine-to-guanine substitution in codon 51 of exon 5 that resulted in a histidine-to-aspartic acid amino acid substitution. The hBUB1 gene of three lung cancer cell lines contained a thymine-to-cytosine substitution in codon 430 of exon 12, which did not result in an amino-acid substitution. We were unable to determine whether the nucleotide substitution in exon 12 was a polymorphism or a silent mutation because matched normal tissue was not available. A polymorphism in codon 93 of exon 4, a guanine-to-thymine substitution, in hBUB1 was found in one lung cancer cell line and one primary lung tumor. This is the first report of a somatic missense mutation of a gene involved in a mitotic checkpoint in primary lung cancer. The presence of a point mutation in the hBUB1 gene is consistent with the hypothesis that alteration of mitotic checkpoint genes is involved in the development of primary lung cancers. Because the frequency of hBUB1 gene mutations was low, future studies should focus on other mechanisms of inactivation of the hBUB1 gene as well as mutation analysis of other mitotic checkpoint genes in lung cancers.