Yolk sac tumors (YSTs) are malignant tumors that occur in the gonads of children and young adults, and at extragonadal sites in young children. The histological features of YSTs are variable and can be superimposed on other germ cell tumor histologies. Malignant endodermal cells within YSTs express α-fetoprotein, which can be detected in tumor tissue or serum. However, additional markers of endoderm differentiation would be beneficial for the classification of these tumors. Transcription factor GATA-4 regulates the differentiation and function of murine yolk sac endoderm, and its expression correlates with proliferation and cell survival in certain tissues. To see whether GATA-4 plays a role in human YSTs, we surveyed its expression in human germ cell tumors and cell lines. Northern analysis demonstrated expression of GATA-4 mRNA in four human germ cell tumor lines exhibiting yolk sac endoderm differentiation. GATA-4 protein was detected in eight of nine pediatric YSTs by immunohistochemistry. Three of five immature teratomas exhibited GATA-4 in neural blastematous cells and in cylindrical epithelium, whereas all 16 mature teratomas were devoid of GATA-4. We conclude that GATA- 4 is a clinically useful marker of human YSTs and speculate that it may play a role in the maintenance of the malignant phenotype.