Syndecan-1 binds basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), modulates neovascularization, plays a role in epithelial differentiation and is up-regulated by WT1. Malignant mesothelioma of the pleura is one of the most aggressive tumours known and expresses high levels of angiogenic growth factors. This study has analysed syndecan-1 expression in mesothelioma tumours and cell lines by immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting, using anti-syndecan-1 antibody directed against the core protein, and has examined its relation to morphology, bFGF, WT1, and intra-tumoural microvascular density (IMD). Shedding of syndecan-1 in the conditioned medium of mesothelioma cell lines was detected in variable amounts. These studies indicate that (1) there is no correlation of syndecan-1 with either bFGF expression or IMD in mesotheliomas in vivo; (2) syndecan-1 is strongly expressed in the epithelial type of mesothelioma and in the epithelial component of biphasic mesotheliomas and the expression is reduced or lost in sarcomatoid differentiation; together with the finding that (3) syndecan-1 correlates with WT1 immuno-expression, this suggests that syndecan-1 might relate to the differentiation state of mesothelial/mesothelioma cells; and (4) syndecan-1-positive tumours are associated with a longer survival (p = 0.02) than mesotheliomas with no or little syndecan-1 expression, on univariate analysis. These findings therefore indicate that syndecan-1 can be an important prognostic indicator in mesotheliomas and its loss may be important in the epithelial-mesenchymal transformation of mesothelioma cells.