It has been reported that the rho genes, which consist of a ras-related small GTPase protein family, regulate cytoskeletal structures and have the potential to transform cultured cells. To investigate the biological relevance of the rho genes in pancreatic carcinogenesis, we examined expressions of the rhoA, B and C genes by polymerase chain reaction after reverse transcription (RT-PCR) in 33 cases of ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas. In addition, mutations of the K-ras, rhoA, B and C genes were studied in the same series of tumour tissues to correlate with rho gene expressions. The expression levels of the rhoC gene were significantly higher in tumours than in non-malignant portions (P < 0.001). Metastatic lesions overexpressed the rhoC gene compared with primary tumours (P < 0.05). Carcinoma tissues with perineural invasion and lymph node metastasis exhibited significantly higher expressions of the rhoC gene than tumours without these manifestations (P < 0.001 and P < 0.05 respectively). Overexpression of the rhoC gene significantly correlated with poorer prognosis of patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma (P < 0.05). In contrast, the expression levels of the rhoA and B genes showed no significant relationship with clinicopathological findings. Mutation was not found either in the rhoA, B or C gene sequences examined. K-ras gene mutation, detected in 27 out of 33 (81.8%) cases, did not affect the expression levels in any of the rho genes. These suggest that elevated expression of the rhoC gene may be involved in the progression of pancreatic carcinoma independent of K-ras gene activation.