Glutathione S-transferases (GSTs) belong to a superfamily of detoxification enzymes that provide critical defences against a large variety of chemical carcinogens and environmental toxicants. GSTs are present in most epithelial tissues of the human gastrointestinal tract. We investigated associations between genetic variability in specific GST genes (GSTM1, GSTT1 and GSTP1), the interaction with cigarette smoking and susceptibility to gastric cancer. The GSTM1, GSTT1 and GSTP1 polymorphisms were determined using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and fluorescence resonance energy transfer with Light Cycler Instrument. The study included 70 patients with gastric cancer and 204 controls. Associations between specific genotypes and the development of gastric cancer were examined by use of logistic regression to calculate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). The GSTM1 homozygous null genotype was associated with an increased risk of developing gastric cancer (OR = 1.73; 95 % Cl = 1.10-3.04). GSTT1 homozygous null genotype and GSTP1 genotypes were not associated with the risk of gastric cancer. Also there was no difference between cases and controls in the frequency of val-105 and ile-105 alleles (p = 0.07). After grouping according to smoking status, GSTM1 null genotype was associated with an increased gastric cancer risk for smokers (OR = 2.15; 95% Cl, 1.02-4.52). There were no significant differences in the distributions of any of the other GST gene combinations. Our findings suggest that the GSTM1 null genotype may be associated with an increased susceptibility to gastric cancer. Copyright (c) 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.