It has been found by immunohistochemical staining that antigens normally found in gastric and/or intestinal epithelial cells are expressed in most differentiated duct cell carcinomas of the pancreas. Among 88 such tumors, 93% and 92%, respectively, expressed M1 and cathepsin E, markers of gastric surface-foveolar epithelial cells, 51% expressed pepsinogen II, a marker of gastroduodenal mucopeptic cells, 48% expressed CAR-5, a marker of colorectal epithelial cells, and 35% expressed M3SI, a marker of small intestinal goblet cells. Most of the tumors also expressed normal pancreatic duct antigens; 97% expressed DU-PAN-2, and 59% expressed N-terminus gastrin-releasing peptide. In agreement with these findings, electron microscopy revealed malignant cells with fine structural features of gastric foveolar cells, gastric mucopeptic cells, intestinal goblet cells, intestinal columnar cells, pancreatic duct epithelial cells, and cells with features of more than one cell type. Normal pancreatic duct epithelium did not express any marker of gastrointestinal epithelial cells, whereas such benign lesions as mucinous cell hypertrophy and papillary hyperplasia commonly expressed gut-type antigens but rarely expressed pancreatic duct cell markers. By contrast, lesions characterized by atypical papillary hyperplasia commonly expressed both gastric and pancreatic duct cell markers. Metaplastic pyloric-type glands expressed pepsinogen II and, except for their expression of cathepsin E, were indistinguishable from normal pyloric glands. In marked contrast, the immunohistochemical and ultrastructural features of 14 ductuloacinar cell tumors were those of cells lining terminal ductules, centroacinar cells, and/or acinar cells; none expressed any gut-type antigen. The results indicate that gastrointestinal differentiation is common in both benign and malignant lesions of pancreatic duct epithelium and suggest that duct cell carcinomas are histogenetically related to gastric- and intestinal-type metaplastic changes of epithelial cells lining the main and interlobular ducts of the pancreas.