Lumican is a member of a small leucine-rich proteoglycan family, members of which play an important role in cell migration and proliferation during embryonic development, tissue repair, and tumour growth. Lumican is reported to be overexpressed during the wound healing process in the cornea and in human breast cancer tissues, but its expression and localization in normal pancreas and pancreatic cancer tissues are not known. The present study aimed to clarify the expression of lumican protein and its mRNA in human pancreatic cancer cell lines and their localization in normal and cancerous human pancreatic tissues. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and western blot analysis revealed lumican mRNA and its protein expression in PK-8 and MIA-PaCa-2 human pancreatic cancer cells. The tumour lumican had non- or poorly sulphated polylactosamine side-chains rather than highly sulphated keratan sulphate chains. Immunoreactivity of the lumican protein was localized in alpha cells of islets and stromal tissues of a normal pancreas. In pancreatic cancer tissues, the lumican protein was strongly localized in cancer cells, and in acinar and islet cells in chronic pancreatitis-like lesions adjacent to the cancer cells. It was also localized in fibroblasts and collagen fibres close to cancer cells. Lumican mRNA was expressed in cancer cells, in acinar and islet cells in chronic pancreatitis-like lesions, and in stromal fibroblasts in the pancreatic cancer tissues. This is the first report that lumican is synthesized in endocrine and cancer cells. Lumican protein may play a role in the maintenance of islet cell function in normal pancreas and the lumican protein synthesized by cancer cells, acinar and islet cells, and stromal fibroblasts may play a role in the growth of human pancreatic cancer cells. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.