Cell-cell adhesion in tissue is mainly regulated by homotypic interaction of cadherin molecules, which are anchored to the cytoskeleton via cytoplasmic proteins, including alpha- and beta-catenin. Although we previously demonstrated that alpha-catenin is crucial for cadherin function in vivo, little is known about the role of beta-catenin. We examined the expression of beta-catenin in human carcinoma samples along with normal tissue (esophagus, stomach, and colon) by immunostaining using our antibody for beta-catenin. Normal epithelium strongly expressed beta-catenin. However, beta-catenin expression was frequently reduced in primary tumors of the esophagus (10 of 15, 67%), stomach (9 of 19, 47%), and colon (11 of 22, 50%). From an immunoprecipitation study, we found that beta-catenin forms a complex with E-cadherin not only in the normal epithelium but also in cancerous tissues. In coexpression patterns of E-cadherin and beta-catenin, 43 (77%) of the 56 tumors showed a similar expression of both molecules, whereas the other 13 tumors (23%) showed positive staining for E-cadherin and reduced expression of beta-catenin. These findings suggest that beta-catenin forms a complex with E-cadherin in vivo and down-regulation of beta-catenin expression is associated with malignant transformation.