Serrated adenoma of the colorectum is a recently proposed entity characterized by a saw-toothed structure of hyperplastic polyp and cytologic atypia of tubular adenoma. To clarify the role of apoptosis in morphogenesis of serrated adenoma, we investigated apoptotic indices and expression of apoptosis-related antigens in the tumor cells. Thirty-eight serrated adenomas were examined by the nick-end DNA labeling method and immunostained for CD95 (Fas), bcl-2, bax, and p53. Thirty-seven hyperplastic polyps, 48 tubular adenomas, and 16 sections containing normal colonic mucosa were similarly examined for comparison. The apoptotic indices in the upper and middle zones of the crypts of serrated adenomas and hyperplastic polyps were lower than those of normal colon mucosa and tubular adenomas with statistically significant differences. The CD95 expression was diffusely observed throughout the epithelium of normal crypts and tubular adenomas, whereas it was reduced in serrated adenomas and hyperplastic polyps. The bcl-2 expression was confined to the basal crypts in the latter two lesions but was diffuse throughout the neoplastic epithelium in tubular adenomas. The bax expression was increased in serrated adenomas and tubular adenomas but was decreased in hyperplastic polyps. Overexpression of p53 protein was observed in 50% of serrated adenomas, none of hyperplastic polyps, and 14% of tubular adenomas. These findings suggest that inhibition of apoptosis is caused by reduced CD95 expression in serrated adenomas and hyperplastic polyps, which may induce the characteristic saw-toothed structure in these lesions. Based on the similarities and differences between serrated adenoma and hyperplastic polyp observed in the present study, a progression from the latter to the former lesion may be postulated.