The tumour suppressor gene PTEN, located at chromosome sub-band 10q23.3, encodes a dual-specificity phosphatase that negatively regulates the phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase (PI3 K)/Akt-dependent cellular survival pathway. PTEN is frequently inactivated in many tumour types including glioblastoma, prostate and endometrial cancers. While initial studies reported that PTEN gene mutations were rare in colorectal cancer, more recent reports have shown an approximate 18% incidence of somatic PTEN mutations in colorectal tumours exhibiting microsatellite instability (MSI+). To verify the role of this gene in colorectal tumorigenesis, we analysed paired normal and tumour DNA from 41 unselected primary sporadic colorectal cancers for PTEN inactivation by mutation and/or allelic loss. We now report PTEN gene mutations in 19.5% (8/41) of tumours and allele loss, including all or part of the PTEN gene, in a further 17% (7/41) of the cases. Both PTEN alleles were affected in over half (9/15) of these cases showing PTEN genetic abnormalities. Using immunohistochemistry, we have further shown that all tumours harbouring PTEN alterations have either reduced or absent PTEN expression and this correlated strongly with later clinical stage of tumour at presentation (P=0.02). In contrast to previous reports, all but one of the tumours with PTEN gene mutations were microsatellite stable (MSI-), suggesting that PTEN is involved in a distinct pathway of colorectal tumorigenesis that is separate from the pathway of mismatch repair deficiency. This work therefore establishes the importance of PTEN in primary sporadic colorectal cancer.