Microsatellite instability has been proposed as an alternative pathway of colorectal carcinogenesis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the interest of immunohistochemistry as a new tool for highlighting mismatch repair deficiency and to compare the results with a PCR-based microsatellite assay. A total of 100 sporadic proximal colon adenocarcinomas were analysed. The expression of hMLH1, hMSH2 and hMSH6 proteins evaluated by immunohistochemistry was altered in 39% of the cancers, whereas microsatellite instability assessed by PCR was detected in 43%. There was discordance between the two methods in eight cases. After further analyses performed on other tumoural areas for these eight cases, total concordance between the two techniques was observed (Kappa=100%). Our results demonstrate that immunohistochemistry may be as efficient as microsatellite amplification in the detection of unstable phenotype provided that at least two samples of each carcinoma are screened, because of intratumoural heterogeneity.