Different diagnostic and prognostic groups of colorectal carcinoma (CRC) have been defined. However, accurate diagnosis and prediction of survival are sometimes difficult. Gene expression profiling might improve these classifications and bring new insights into underlying molecular mechanisms. We profiled 50 cancerous and noncancerous colon tissues using DNA microarrrays consisting of approximately 8000 spotted human cDNA. Global hierarchical clustering was to some extent able to distinguish clinically relevant subgroups, normal versus cancer tissues and metastatic versus nonmetastatic tumours. Supervised analyses improved these segregations by identifying sets of genes that discriminated between normal and tumour tissues, tumours associated or not with lymph node invasion or genetic instability, and tumours from the right or left colon. A similar approach identified a gene set that divided patients with significantly different 5-year survival (100% in one group and 40% in the other group; P=0.005). Discriminator genes were associated with various cellular processes. An immunohistochemical study on 382 tumour and normal samples deposited onto a tissue microarray subsequently validated the upregulation of NM23 in CRC and a downregulation in poor prognosis tumours. These results suggest that microarrays may provide means to improve the classification of CRC, provide new potential targets against carcinogenesis and new diagnostic and/or prognostic markers and therapeutic targets.