Objective: N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferase V (GnT-V) is a key enzyme in the formation of branching asparagine-linked oligosaccharides and is linked to tumor invasion and metastasis in colon and breast cancers. In normal esophageal epithelium, β1,6-branched asparagine-linked oligosaccharides synthesized by GnT-V are seen in the basal cell layers but not in the superficial cell layers, and its presence has been shown in invasive esophageal cancers. However, neither GnT-V expression nor its clinical significance has been previously examined in human normal, premalignant and malignant esophageal tissues. Methods: GnT-V expression was studied by immunohistochemistry using a specific monoclonal antibody in 121 surgically resected specimens of esophageal squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) and adjacent tissues, and was analyzed statistically in relation to various characteristics. Results: GnT-V expression was observed in none (0%) of the 19 normal epithelial tissues, 1 (2%) of the 43 hyperplastic tissues, 30 (54%) of the 56 mildly dysplastic tissues, 27 (63%) of the 43 moderately dysplastic tissues, 21 (44%) of the 48 in situ SCCs and 29 (26%) of the 110 invasive SCCs (p < 0.005). GnT-V expression was observed significantly more frequently in mildly and moderately dysplastic tissues when compared with normal epithelial and hyperplastic tissues (p < 0.005), and its frequency was decreased in in situ and invasive SCCs (p < 0.005). GnT-V expression was frequently observed in SCCs of small size and without distant metastasis or lymph node metastasis. Conclusions: Increased expression of GnT-V is associated with the early event of esophageal tumorigenesis.