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The human Mut-L-Homologon-1 (MLH1) and Mut-S-Homologon-2 (MSH2) are post replication mismatch repair (MMR) genes.We examined the correlation of the clinical features of 122 patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) with the expression of MLH1 and MSH2 by immunohistochemical analysis.According to our criteria, 34 and 25 cases did not express MLH1 and MSH2, respectively. Expression of both the MLH1 and MSH2 gene products was observed in 73 (59.8%) cases; loss of MLH1 or MSH2 expression was detected in 35(28.7%) cases. Fourteen (11.5%) cases demonstrated loss of both MLH1 and MSH2 expression in ESCC. Loss of MLH1 and/or MSH2 gene expression significantly correlated with increases in malignancy, as evidenced by increases in the existence of metastatic lymph nodes (P = 0.0056), extensive invasion (P = 0.0007), and poor differentiation (P = 0.0992). The MLH1-negative patients had a significantly poorer prognosis than those in the MLH1-positive group (P = 0.0043). Similar results were observed for MSH2 expression (P = 0.0002). Patients both MLH1 and MSH2 negative exhibited the most poor clinical outcome than other patients (P < 0.0001).We conclude that MMR protein expression, detected by immunohistochemistry, is a useful marker providing information necessary to decide appropriate therapeutic strategies in patients with ESCC.