In order to identify relevant genetic lesions in gastric carcinoma, we searched for tumor suppressor gene inactivation and K-ras gene mutations by analyzing tumor and control DNAs from 34 patients. These were from an epidemiologically defined area of Italy characterized by one of the world's highest incidences of stomach cancer. Allele losses were investigated by the Southern blotting procedure at 16 polymorphic loci on 11 different chromosomes. Our data demonstrate that chromosomal regions 5q, 11p, 17p and 18q are frequently deleted, and that 7q and 13q chromosome arms are also involved, although at a lower frequency. Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at region 11p was not found during other surveys carried out on patients of different geographic origins. No specific combination of allelic losses could be recognized in the samples analyzed, the only exception being that tumors with 17p allelic loss also showed LOH on the 18q region. When matching frequent LOH events and the stage of progression of the tumors, we observed a trend of association between advanced stages and allelic losses on 17p and 18q chromosome arms. The analysis of K-ras, carried out by the polymerase chain reaction and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, demonstrated transforming mutations in only 3 out of 32 cases. Colorectal tumorigenesis proceeds by the accumulation of genetic alterations, including K-ras mutations and inactivation of tumor suppressor genes on the 5q, 17p and 18q regions. Our data indicate that, although gastric and colorectal neoplasias share common genetic alterations, they probably progress through different pathways.