Expression of E-cadherin in 21 patients with various histological types of gastric carcinomas was studied by immunoperoxidase staining. Intercellular boundaries of almost all cancer cells in well and moderately differentiated adenocarcinomas stained as deeply for E-cadherin as normal gastric mucosa. However, singly infiltrating cells of those histological types were poorly stained. In poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas, cancer cells forming clusters stained lightly and those infiltrating singly stained even less. In signet ring cell carcinomas, hardly any staining was observed. In each histological type, the staining patterns and intensity at different layers of the gastric wall, were essentially the same. Cancer cells from carcinomatous ascites of gastric adenocarcinomas and pancreatic adenocarcinomas, and those from pleural effusion of lung adenocarcinomas were also studied by immunofluorescence staining. Of 11 specimens, ten were negative and only one from a lung adenocarcinomas was positively stained. By phase-contrast microscopic observations, none of these cancer cells including those from the lung adenocarcinomas, formed obvious cell-cell contacts. Cell aggregation assays confirmed the above results. The molecular weight of E-cadherin of cancer cells of lung adenocarcinomas was less than intact E-cadherin as revealed by Western blot analysis. These results suggest that depressed expression and/or impaired function of E-cadherin in cancer cells, facilitates their liberation from primary sites to infiltrate freely into tissue or fluid.