The usefulness of mucin-depleted foci (MDF), which have recently been proposed as a new preneoplastic biomarker in rat colon carcinogenesis, was histologically investigated in rat colonic tissues treated with 1,2-dimethylhydrazine dihydrochloride (DMH). The relationship among aberrant crypt foci (ACF), MDF and beta-catenin accumulated crypts (BCAC) was examined by comparing the corresponding computer-captured images. Twelve male F344 rats were given DMH s.c. at a dose of 40 mg/kg body weight, once a week for 2 weeks, and randomly divided into two groups. Rats in group 1 were given normal drinking water, while those in group 2 were given drinking water containing indomethacin (IND) at 16 ppm for 6 weeks. All animals were sacrificed 8 weeks after the first DMH treatment. The resected colons were fixed in 10% formalin, and stained with Alcian blue for observation of ACF and MDF. Histological and immunohistochemical analysis revealed that the numbers of ACF, MDF and overlapping lesions in group 2 (treated with IND) were significantly decreased, compared with those in group 1. The number of BCAC in group 2 was also significantly lower than that in group 1. The reduction (61.5%) of MDF by IND was much greater than that (29.3%) of ACF. Analyses of the computer-captured images indicated that MDF had more frequent dysplastic changes and overexpression of beta-catenin than did ACF. MDF having over 4 crypts or MDF with the appearance of ACF corresponded well to BCAC. These results suggest that MDF may be useful as an early biomarker in colon carcinogenesis.