The programmed cell death 4 (PDCD4) tumor suppressor is down-regulated in several malignancies, and the (subcellular) expression of its protein product is modulated by both oncomiR miR-21 and protein kinase B (Akt). PDCD4 and activated Akt (phosphorylated Akt [pAkt]) expression were assessed immunohistochemically in 53 tissue samples obtained from 25 endoscopic esophageal mucosal resections performed for squamous intraepithelial neoplasia (IEN) or squamous intramucosal carcinoma (IM-SSC). In total, 33 IEN (low-grade = 15; high-grade = 15) and 20 IM-SSC specimens were considered; 50 additional tissue samples of histologically proven normal esophageal mucosa were considered as normal controls. To further validate the results achieved, miR-21 expression (as assessed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridization) was tested in another series of 15 normal esophageal tissue samples, 15 high-grade IEN, and 15 IM-SCCs. Normal suprabasal squamous epithelial layers consistently featured strong PDCD4 nuclear immunostaining, which was significantly lower (P < 0.001) in IEN (both low-and high-grade) and in IM-SSC. Conversely, pAkt and miR-21 expression was significantly up-regulated in the whole spectrum of preneoplastic/neoplastic lesions considered. PDCD4 down-regulation, as assessed by immunohistochemistry, is a reliable biomarker of early-stage squamous cell esophageal neoplasia, providing additional information in the histological assessment of these lesions.