Polo-like kinase (PLK), a cell cycle-regulated, cyclin-independent serine/threonine protein kinase, has been shown in recent reports to play a critical role during tumorigenesis. To investigate whether PLK plays a general role as a tumor marker of ovarian cancers, we examined the expression of PLK protein in ovarian cancers, and analyzed the relationship between PLK protein expression and histological grade. Immunohistochemically, the majority of PLK was found in the cytoplasm (around the nucleus), and a portion was found in the nucleus of ovarian cancer glands and also in the fluid secreted from these glands. PLK was expressed at the basement membrane of cancer glands and partly expressed in the head portion of papillary cancer tissues. A significant correlation was found between percentages of PLK-positive cells and histological grade of ovarian cancer (P<0.001). However, the expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen, Ki-67, and cyclin B1 was independent of PLK expression. Taken together, these findings suggest that PLK expression may reflect the degree of malignancy rather than the degree of proliferation in ovarian cancer. Thus, in addition to being of diagnostic value, PLK activity in ovarian tumors may be modulated by chemotherapeutic agents or gene therapy to therapeutic effect.