Mammaglobin B is a recently-isolated gene speculated to belong to the uteroglobin gene family and is overexpressed in primary breast cancers. We investigated mammaglobin B mRNA expression in various cancers of the digestive system. Given the absence of mammaglobin B expression in normal lymph nodes, we also assessed the usefulness of mammaglobin B as a marker for lymph node micrometastases in cancer patients. Mammaglobin B gene transcripts were frequently detected by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay in primary tumors of the esophagus (2/3), stomach (7/7), colon (15/15), pancreas (4/6), common bile duct (6/6), cholangioma (2/2) and gall bladder (1/1). Mammaglobin B overexpression was observed in three of 15 cases (20%) of colon cancer, suggesting its possible contribution to colon carcinogenesis. Down-regulated mammaglobin B expression was observed in hepatoma cells in comparison with corresponding non-cancerous livers (3/3). RT-PCR assay of mammaglobin B detected 14 of 15 histologically positive lymph nodes from patients with gastric cancer, colon cancer and cholangioma. Seven of 32 (22%), three of nine (33%), and three of seven (43%) histologically negative nodes from patients with gastric, colon and cholangiocellular carcinoma, respectively, were found to express mammaglobin B mRNA. Our results showed that expression of mammaglobin B was frequently detected in cancers originating in digestive organs, especially adenocarcinomas, and that mammaglobin B gene detected by RT-PCR may be a potentially useful molecular marker for lymph node micrometastases of various digestive organ cancers.