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Although N-cadherin is necessary for organ formation originating in the endoderm, the expression of N-cadherin in gastric carcinoma and its role has not yet been reported. The present study was conducted to determine the pattern of immunohistochemical expression of E-cadherin and N-cadherin, using formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues from 97 primary gastric carcinomas, including 17 which were producing α-fetoprotein (AFP). Samples were subdivided into 50 tubular adenocarcinomas and 47 poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas. Results showed that E-cadherin was expressed in varying degrees in areas of cell adhesion between tumor cells, in 94 out of 97 cases studied. Three cases which showed no expression of E-cadherin were diagnosed as AFP-producing tumors by immunohistochemistry. Expression of N-cadherin was observed in varying degrees in the intercellular spaces between tumor cells in 11 tubular adenocarcinomas and in six poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas, including E-cadherin-negative cases, all of which were AFP positive. The present findings suggest a possible role for N-cadherin in gastric carcinoma.