Differentiating between primary tumors of the liver and metastatic lesions can, at times, be difficult. Various histochemical and immunohistochemical methods have been used in an effort to better delineate between hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), especially the microglandular variant, primary cholangiocarcinoma, and metastatic adenocarcinoma; these ancillary studies can yield less than satisfactory results. Recently, anti-MOC31, a monoclonal antibody directed against a cell surface glycoprotein, has been shown to be helpful in distinguishing between adenocarcinoma and mesothelioma. This study addresses whether this antibody might be helpful in distinguishing between HCC, primary cholangiocarcinoma, and metastatic adenocarcinoma in the liver. Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections from 15 HCC (including 10 microglandular variants), 14 primary cholangiocarcinomas, and 33 metastatic adenocarcinomas (7 colon, 1 lung, 8 breast, 4 GE jct/gastric, 9 pancreas, 2 small intestine, 1 renal, 1 ovary) were immunostained with anti-MOC 31 (1:40, Dako) after protease digestion and biotin block using a modified ABC technique. Positive staining was limited to membrane based reactivity; controls stained appropriately. Immunoreactivity for MOC31 was observed in 14 of 14 cholangiocarcinomas and 33 of 33 metastatic tumors. Staining was diffuse, intense, and readily interpretable, with rare exceptions. All 15 cases of HCC were negative. We conclude that cholangiocarcinoma and metastatic adenocarcinoma from a variety of sites express MOC31; HCC is uniformly negative for this marker. Anti-MOC31 may prove useful in the evaluation of liver neoplasms where primary hepatocellular and adenocarcinoma enter the differential diagnosis; it is not useful in separating primary cholangiocarcinoma from metastatic adenocarcinoma.