Nucleophosmin/B23 is a 38 kD molecular phosphoprotein involved in ribosome assembly and transport. In view of the fact that nucleophosmin/B23 appears to be more abundant in tumour cells than in normal cells, the mRNA expression and immunohistochemical localization of nucleophosmin/B23 were investigated in 19 samples of non-neoplastic mucosa, six adenomas, and 16 adenocarcinomas of the colorectum. Northern blot analysis revealed that nucleophosmin/B23 mRNA is expressed at a higher level in adenomas and carcinomas than in non-neoplastic mucosa of the colorectum. Immunohistochemical staining of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections after microwave antigen retrieval, using a nucleophosmin/B23-specific monoclonal antibody, showed almost exclusively diffuse nuclear reactivity of a majority of the epithelial cells in non-neoplastic mucosa: in adenomas, reactivity was almost exclusively nucleolar and in carcinomas, nuclear as well as nucleolar staining was observed. During mitosis, the immunoreactivity of nucleophosmin/B23 appears in the cytoplasm. The results indicate that the expression of nucleophosmin/B23 is higher in neoplastic than in non-neoplastic colorectal mucosa. Furthermore, the pattern of nucleophosmin/B23 expression shifts from nuclear to nucleolar early in the adenoma-carcinoma sequence. The exact function of nucleophosmin/B23 in colorectal carcinogenesis remains to be determined.