Reduced expression of nm23 gene is implicated in high metastatic potential in a variety of malignancies. To elucidate the role of nm23 in human gastric carcinomas, we examined loss of heterozygosity (LOH) of nm23 gene by Southern blotting, nm23 mRNA expression by Northern blotting and nm23 protein expression by Western blotting as well as immunohistochemistry in both primary and metastatic tumors. LOH of nm23 gene was found in 2 (8%) out of the 23 informative gastric carcinomas. Twenty-two (84%) out of the 26 cases expressed nm23 mRNA at higher levels in primary tumor tissue than in corresponding non-neoplastic mucosa. No obvious correlation was observed between clinico-pathological features and LOH of nm23 gene or nm23 mRNA expression. On the other hand, 52% of the gastric carcinomas showed reduction of nm23 immunoreactivity in the metastatic tumor of regional lymph nodes, as compared to the primary tumor. Interestingly, 71% of the gastric carcinomas showed weaker nm23 immunoreactivity in the liver metastasis than in the primary tumor. These results suggest that nm23 overexpression is linked with development of gastric carcinomas and the decrease in expression of nm23 participates in metastasis.