Cyclin D1 protein overexpression is commonly found in colorectal carcinomas (CRCs) and is associated with a poorer prognosis, but the mechanism underlying overexpression remains uncertain. Both dysregulation of beta-catenin protein expression and k-ras mutation have recently been shown to promote cyclin D1 expression in human in vitro and rodent in vivo studies. In this study, 53 sporadic CRCs were examined by immunohistochemistry for cyclin D1 and beta-catenin protein expression, and with PCR and direct DNA sequencing for k-ras gene status. The study also addressed whether cyclin Dl overexpression might associate with poorer prognosis because of a relationship with poorer response to 5-fluorouracil (5FU) chemotherapy. Cyclin D1 overexpression was demonstrated in 34/53 (64%) CRCs, was significantly associated with higher Dukes' stage, and was particularly prominent at the invasive edges of carcinomas. Furthermore, cyclin D1 overexpression was always and only seen in association with nuclear expression of beta-catenin. There were no significant associations between cyclin D1 overexpression and k-ras mutation or response to 5FU. Amongst 17 microsatellite unstable CRCs, a smaller proportion of tumours showed cyclin D1 overexpression (18%), but again cyclin D1 overexpression was only seen in cases showing nuclear beta-catenin expression. In conclusion, beta-catenin protein dysregulation, but not k-ras mutation, appears to be required for cyclin D1 overexpression in colorectal carcinoma in vivo.