The tumour suppressor gene PTEN/MMAC1/TEP1 has been implicated in a variety of human cancers and several inherited hamartoma tumour syndromes, including Cowden syndrome, which has a high risk of breast and thyroid cancer. We have previously reported that overexpression of PTEN in MCF-7 breast cancer cells induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. In this study, we analysed PTEN status at both the structural and expression levels and explored PTEN's growth-suppressive effects on thyroid. We found that 1 of 10 thyroid cancer lines [follicular thyroid carcinoma FTC-133] had hemizygous deletion and a splice variant IVS4--19G-->A in the remaining allele. Four lines, including FTC-133, express PTEN mRNA at low levels. In general, PTEN protein levels correlated with mRNA levels, except for NPA87, which has low levels of transcript and relatively high levels of PTEN protein. Transient expression of PTEN in seven thyroid cancer cell lines resulted in G(1) arrest in two well differentiated papillary thyroid cancer lines (PTCs) and both G(1) arrest and cell death in the remaining five lines, including three FTCs, one poorly differentiated PTC and one undifferentiated thyroid cancer. The level of phosphorylated Akt was inversely correlated with the endogenous level of PTEN protein and overexpression of PTEN-blocked Akt phosphorylation in all cells analysed. Our results suggest that downregulation of PTEN expression at the mRNA level plays a role in PTEN inactivation in thyroid cancer and PTEN exerts its tumour-suppressive effect on thyroid cancer through the inhibition of cell cycle progression alone or both cell cycle progression and cell death.