BACKGROUND: Gene fusions between the ERG transcription factor and the androgen-regulated gene TMPRSS2 occur in a subset of prostate cancers and contribute to transformation of prostatic epithelial cells. Prior reports have used fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) or quantitative PCR (QPCR) to determine the presence of TMPRSS2-ERG fusions or ERG expression, respectively. Recently, several groups have reported on immunohistochemistry (IHC) to measure ERG expression, which is much more readily performed in clinical practice. However, the prior studies examining ERG expression by IHC had small sample sizes or they failed to clarify the association of ERG protein expression with important clinico-pathological features or prostate cancer-specific mortality. Methods: To address these deficits, we evaluated ERG expression by IHC in 208 radical prostatectomy samples from the Kaiser Permanente Molecular Epidemiology of Fatal Prostate Cancer (MEFPC) study, a case-control study of prostate cancer-specific mortality. RESULTS: Nuclear ERG expression was seen in neoplastic prostate epithelia in 49 of the samples (23.7%). ERG expression in tumor cells was associated with higher tumor stage (OR = 2.0, 95% confidence interval 1.0-4.0, P value = 0.04). ERG immunoreactivity was positively associated with prostate cancer-specific mortality, although the confidence interval was wide (OR = 1.9, 95% confidence interval 0.88-4.0, P value = 0.10). CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that ERG protein expression is readily quantifiable with an existing commercial antibody. Evaluating ERG protein expression may improve our ability to identify the subset of more aggressive, invasive prostate cancers.