The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27(Kip1) is a powerful molecular determinant of cell cycle progression. Loss of expression of p27(Kip1) has been shown to be predictive of disease progression in several human malignancies. In this study we investigated the expression of two key cell cycle regulators, p27(Kip1) and cyclin E, in the progression of transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder. An immunohistochemical analysis was conducted in a series of 50 bladder tumor specimens, including 3 metastatic lymph nodes, and 7 normal bladder specimens, using specific antibodies against the two regulators of the cell cycle, p27(Kip1) and cyclin E. The degree of immunoreactivity was correlated with the pathological tumor grade, stage, and patient survival. A uniformly intense immunoreactivity for p27(Kip1) and cyclin E was observed in epithelial cells of normal bladder tissue. Malignant bladder tissue demonstrated a heterogeneous pattern of significantly reduced p27(Kip1) and cyclin E immunoreactivity, compared with normal urothelium (P < 0.01). In addition, there was progressive loss of expression of both cell cycle proteins with increasing tumor grade and pathological stage. Expression of p27(Kip1) was significantly lower in the poorly differentiated tumors (grades III) compared to well and moderately differentiated (grades I and II) tumors (P = 0.004). Moreover, the expression of cyclin E was lower in grade III tumors compared to grade I and II lesions, although this difference failed to reach statistical significance. Most significantly, Kaplan-Meier plots of patient survival show increased mortality risk associated with low levels of p27(Kip1) (P = 0.001) and cyclin E (P = 0.002) expression. This is the first evidence that loss of expression of p27(Kip1) and cyclin E in human bladder transitional cell carcinoma cells correlates with advancing histological aggressiveness and poor patient survival. These results have clinical importance, because they support a role for p27(Kip1) and cyclin E as novel predictive markers of the biological potential of bladder tumors that will enable identification of those tumors most likely to progress to muscle invasive disease and of patient survival.