Expression of the calcium-dependent cell-cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin has been examined in 187 primary breast carcinomas using an immunohistochemical technique. The pattern and extent of reactivity has been correlated with clinicopathological data including tumour type, grade and lymph node status and with other prognostic parameters including oestrogen receptor (ER) status, expression of c-erbB-2, pS2 protein and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Two patterns of E-cadherin staining were observed in carcinomas, membrane reactivity and a diffuse cytoplasmic staining. A marked difference in expression of E-cadherin was observed between infiltrating lobular carcinomas (ILC) and infiltrating ductal carcinomas (IDC), the former showing complete loss of membrane staining, whereas 93% of IDC retained some level of expression. In IDC reactivity was not related to tumour grade but there was a significant association between reduced membrane levels of E-cadherin and the presence of lymph node metastasis, and a highly significant correlation between the presence of cytoplasmic E-cadherin and metastasis. A significant relationship was also demonstrated between reduced E-cadherin reactivity and expression of EGFR. These findings emphasise the complexity of control of E-cadherin in breast carcinomas and provide evidence of a link between membrane signalling pathways and modulation of E-cadherin expression.