Precise correlation of histomorphology with the results of molecular genetic analysis is difficult in gastric cancer tissue composed of intestinal and diffuse types. A novel microdissection procedure was applied to correlate p53 and APC allelic loss with histologic type and tumor stage (mucosal vs. invasive cancer) in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded specimens of 25 gastric cancers. In addition, mucosal and invasive lesions were dissected from each of 11 invasive gastric cancers to study progression, and allelic loss of the p53 and APC genes was assessed. The p53 gene underwent loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in 4 of 4 informative cases of intestinal-type gastric cancer with mucosal lesions associated with invasion. By contrast, no p53 LOH was found among 6 informative cases with mucosal cancer. LOH of the APC gene in both intestinal and diffuse types of cancer was detected in 4 of 7 and 5 of 6 informative cases, respectively. These data suggest that allelic deletion of the p53 gene in intestinal-type gastric carcinoma predicts the invasive potential of mucosal cancer, and that inactivation of the APC gene plays a role in the genetic tumorigenesis of both intestinal and diffuse types of gastric cancer. Microdissection can correlate genetic alterations with histologic morphology in gastric cancer.