E-cadherin expression disruption is commonly observed in metastatic epithelial cancers and is a crucial step in gastric cancer (GC) initiation and progression. As aberrant expression of microRNAs often perturb the normal expression/function of pivotal cancer-related genes, we characterized and dissected a pathway that causes E-cadherin dysfunction via loss of microRNA-101 and up-regulation of EZH2 expression in GC. MicroRNA microarray expression profiling and array-CGH were used to reinforce miR-101 involvement in GC. By using quantitative real-time PCR and quantitative SNaPshot genomic PCR, we confirmed that miR-101 was significantly down-regulated in GC (p < 0.0089) in comparison with normal gastric mucosas and, at least in 65% of the GC cases analysed, this down-regulation was caused by deletions and/or microdeletions at miR-101 genomic loci. Moreover, around 40% of cases showing miR-101 down-regulation displayed concomitant EZH2 over-expression (at the RNA and protein levels), which, in turn, was associated with loss/aberrant expression of E-cadherin. Interestingly, this occurred preferentially in intestinal-type GCs, retaining allele(s) untargeted by classical CDH1-inactivating mechanisms. We also demonstrated that miR-101 gain of function or direct inhibition of EZH2 in Kato III GC cells led to a strong depletion of endogenous EZH2 and consequent rescue of E-cadherin membranous localization, mimicking results obtained in clinical GC samples. In conclusion, we show that deletions and/or microdeletions at both miR-101 genomic loci cause mature miR-101 down-regulation, subsequent EZH2 over-expression and E-cadherin dysfunction, specifically in intestinal-type GC. Copyright © 2012 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.