In order to detect regions of DNA containing tumor suppressor genes involved in the development of gastric cancer, we performed an allelotype study on 78 gastric adenocarcinomas from a population composed largely of Texan Hispanics and Anglos, two ethnic groups that have a ratio of incidence rates of gastric cancer of approximately 2:1. In total, 42 microsatellite markers were employed, which detected at least one site per arm of each autosome in the human genome. These included several markers linked to known tumor suppressor genes (TP53, APC, DCC, RB1, and BRCA1). Sites showing quantitative allelic imbalance (AI) greater than 30% were located on 3p (36%), 11q (31%), 12q (38%), 13q (33%), 17p near TP53 (74%), and 17q near BRCAI (32%). Among the 22% of cases showing microsatellite instability (MI), a subset (4 of 17) showed instability at 59% or more of sites tested. No ethnic bias was detected in cases showing MI or in cases with AI at sites with rates of AI above 30%. Tumors of the intestinal subtype were significantly more likely than diffuse tumors to show AI at DI3S170 (P = 0.01). A deletion map of chromosome arm 3p was prepared for tumors with AI at D3S1478. These data indicate that a tumor suppressor gene on chromosome arm 3p is involved in the development of a subset of gastric cancers.