Eighty-two selected gastric mucosal biopsy or resection specimens were stained both conventionally, to classify subtypes of intestinal metaplasia and carcinoma, and immunohistochemically with a mouse monoclonal antibody (MMM-17), raised against normal human colonic mucin, which has an affinity for di- and/or tri-O-acetylated sialomucin. The aims of the study were to reassess the prevalence of O-acetylated sialomucins in normal, metaplastic and carcinomatous gastric mucosa and to investigate whether the production of these mucins by intestinal metaplasia is related to its associated mucosal pathology. O-acetylated sialomucins were not seen in normal mucosa. They were, however, prevalent in all sub-types of metaplastic (64.8%) and carcinomatous (42.9%) mucosa. Type 1 intestinal metaplasia was significantly more likely to contain this type of mucin if Helicobacter pylori infection was identifiable in the adjacent gastric mucosa (81.0% v. 38.5%, P < 0.025). Type 3 showed a similar, albeit nonsignificant, relationship (100% v. 62.5%). O-acetylated sialomucins are, therefore, much more prevalent in gastric intestinal metaplasia and carcinoma than previously recognized by conventional staining techniques. The production of this type of mucin by intestinal metaplasia may reflect an adaptive response to alterations in the luminal environment such as an increase in bacterial content.