BACKGROUND: Kaposi's sarcoma is considered to be an angioproliferative disease associated with a novel herpesvirus (KSHV/HHV8), but the precise pathophysiology of the lesion remains unclear. The study of clonality in Kaposi's sarcoma using X linked DNA polymorphism has been difficult so far, because of a very strong prevalence of the disease in males. AIMS: To study the clonality of Kaposi's sarcoma lesions. METHODS: An assay based on a methyl sensitive restriction digest followed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of the highly polymorphic human androgen receptor (HUMARA) gene was used. Tissues from Kaposi's sarcoma lesions and control tissues from the same patients were obtained from seven females, four with classic Kaposi's sarcoma and three with AIDS associated Kaposi's sarcoma. A cutaneous angiosarcoma was also analysed, for comparative purposes, and showed evidence of clonality after HpaII digestion. RESULTS: All patients were heterozygous for the HUMARA polymorphism and informative for analysis. In all patients, including four with a nodular form of Kaposi's sarcoma and more than 70% spindle cells in the lesion, a polyclonal pattern of inactivation could be demonstrated. CONCLUSIONS: The Kaposi's sarcoma lesion is first of all a polyclonal cell proliferation.