Frequent allele loss from chromosome 16q was recently described for human tumors of the breast, prostate gland and liver, indicating the possible presence of a tumor-suppressor gene on that chromosome arm. In this study, the chromosome 16 allele status of 38 hepatocellular carcinomas in Chinese patients was determined with restriction-fragment-length polymorphism analysis. Tumor-specific allele loss was detected in 14 (74%) of 19 patients informative for 16p markers and in 22 (85%) of 26 patients informative for 16q markers. Quantitative densitometric analysis revealed reduction to hemizygosity of the E-cadherin cell adhesion gene (localized to 16q22.1) in 18 (64%) of the 28 patients for whom quantitative data were available. Reduced expression of E-cadherin has been associated with invasion and metastasis in several human cell lines and primary tumors, and our results suggest that one mechanism of reduced E-cadherin expression is the loss of one copy of the E-cadherin gene.