p73 is a candidate tumor suppressor gene with substantial DNA and protein homology to the p53 tumor suppressor gene. We have investigated two hypotheses: (a) p73 is mutated in diverse types of human cancer, and (b) p73 is functionally redundant with p53 in carcinogenesis so that mutations would be exclusive in these two genes. The entire coding region and intronic splice junctions of p73 were examined in 54 cancer cell lines. Three lung cancer cell lines contained mutations that affected the amino acid sequence. One amino acid substitution was in a region with homology to the specific DNA binding region of p53 and two microdeletions were outside the region of homology. Two of the cell lines with p73 mutations also carried p53 mutations. Although our results are inconsistent with the two hypotheses tested, p73 mutations may contribute infrequently to the molecular pathogenesis of human lung cancer.