Neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) has recently been identified in myeloperoxidase-negative neutrophil granules. Members of the lipocalin family are thought to bind and transport small lipophilic molecules such as retinoids and roles in cell regulation have been proposed. Recently, NGAL has also been demonstrated in the colonic mucosa in certain pathologic conditions. The aim of this study was to examine the distribution of NGAL in normal and neoplastic tissues by immunohistochemistry. Interestingly, NGAL was found in a variety of normal and pathological human tissues. A cell type-specific pattern of expression was seen in bronchus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, kidney, prostate gland, and thymus. The comparative analysis of the putative rat homologue neu-related lipocalin showed a very similar pattern of expression with the exception of pancreas and kidney. Neoplastic human tissues showed a very heterogeneous expression of NGAL protein. High NGAL levels were found in adenocarcinomas of lung, colon and pancreas. In contrast, renal cell carcinomas of various subtypes and prostate cancers contained low NGAL levels. Lymphomas and thymic tumours were negative for NGAL immuno-labeling. Knowledge about the location of NGAL in normal cells and in disease states provides the first clues towards understanding its biological function.