Phosphatase of regenerating liver (PRL)-3, encoding a 22-kD low molecular weight tyrosine phosphatase, has been reported to be associated with metastasis of colorectal carcinoma. We assessed the levels of PRL-3 mRNA expression to know whether its up-regulation was involved in progression and metastasis of gastric carcinoma. Levels of PRL-3 expression in 94 human gastric adenocarcinomas and 54 matched lymph node metastases were detected by in situ hybridization and compared with clinicopathological characteristics including prognosis. High PRL-3 expression was detected in 36.2% of primary gastric carcinoma (with nodal metastasis, 55.6%; without nodal metastasis, 10%; P < 0.001) and in 74.1% of lymph node metastases. The incidence of high PRL-3 expression in lymph node metastasis was significantly higher than in primary tumors (P < 0.044). Moreover, high expression of PRL-3 was closely associated with tumor size, lymphatic invasion, venous invasion, extent of lymph node metastasis, and tumor stage. These results suggest that high PRL-3 expression may participate in the progression and metastasis of gastric carcinoma. PRL-3 might be a novel molecular marker for aggressive gastric cancer.