Abstract BACKGROUND: Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is characterized by a number of diverse molecular aberrations that differ among individuals. Recent approaches to molecularly classify RCC were based on clinical, pathological as well as on single molecular parameters. As a consequence, gene expression patterns reflecting the sum of genetic aberrations in individual tumors may not have been recognized. In an attempt to uncover such molecular features in RCC, we used a novel, unbiased and integrative approach. METHODS: We integrated gene expression data from 97 primary RCC of different pathologic parameters, 15 RCC metastases as well as 34 cancer cell lines for two-way nonsupervised hierarchical clustering using gene groups suggested by the PANTHER Classification System. We depicted the genomic landscape of the resulted tumor groups by means of Single Nuclear Polymorphism (SNP) technology. Finally, the achieved results were immunohistochemically analyzed using a tissue microarray (TMA) composed of 254 RCC. RESULTS: We found robust, genome wide expression signatures, which split RCC into three distinct molecular subgroups. These groups remained stable even if randomly selected gene sets were clustered. Notably, the pattern obtained from RCC cell lines was clearly distinguishable from that of primary tumors. SNP array analysis demonstrated differing frequencies of chromosomal copy number alterations among RCC subgroups. TMA analysis with group-specific markers showed a prognostic significance of the different groups. CONCLUSION: We propose the existence of characteristic and histologically independent genome-wide expression outputs in RCC with potential biological and clinical relevance.