Signet ring cell carcinoma and mucinous carcinoma are distinct subtypes of colorectal adenocarcinoma. The morphologic and molecular spectra of colorectal carcinomas with various signet ring cell components and colorectal carcinomas with various mucinous components, compared to non-mucinous adenocarcinomas, have not been examined. The study groups consisted of 39 carcinomas with various signet ring cell components ('the signet group'), 167 carcinomas with various mucinous components ('the mucinous group'), and 457 nonmucinous adenocarcinoma. We visually estimated the amounts of signet ring cell and mucinous components in tumors, and subclassified the signet and mucinous groups according to the amount of each component (< or = 19, 20-49, and > or = 50%). We sequenced BRAF and KRAS, analyzed for microsatellite instability (MSI) and 18q loss of heterozygosity (LOH), and performed immunohistochemistry for TP53, cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2), MLH1, O-6-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase (MGMT), p16 (CDKN2A), and fatty acid synthase (FASN). Signet ring cell carcinoma (> or = 50% signet ring cell tumors) and < or = 49% signet ring cell tumors showed similar molecular features. Except for MSI and MGMT, > or = 50% mucinous tumors and < or = 49% mucinous tumors also showed similar molecular features. BRAF mutations, MSI, and MLH1 loss were more frequent in both the signet and mucinous groups than nonmucinous carcinoma. More frequent KRAS mutations and less frequent p16 loss and TP53 positivity were observed in the mucinous group than nonmucinous carcinoma. 18q LOH and COX2 overexpression were less common in the signet group than nonmucinous carcinoma. FASN levels were highest in the mucinous group, followed by nonmucinous carcinoma, and lowest in the signet group. In conclusion, a minor (< or = 49%) signet ring cell or mucinous component in colorectal carcinoma suggests molecular features similar to > or = 50% signet ring cell or mucinous carcinoma, respectively. Signet ring cell carcinoma and mucinous carcinoma are related subtypes of colorectal adenocarcinoma, but have molecular features distinct from each other.