Two cases of ulcerative colitis (UC)-associated carcinoma or dysplasia and morphologically non-neoplastic mucosa with p53 protein overexpression (MNNM-p53OE) were selected. DNA was extracted from the paraffin blocks of these lesions and exons 5 - 8 of the p53 gene were analyzed by PCR and direct sequencing. In addition, mutations in K-ras codon 12 were analyzed by PCR-RFLP methods. MNNM-p53OE was located surrounding and adjoining a coexisting carcinoma and / or dysplasia. A p53 mutation was detected in 12 / 22 (54.5%) MNNM-p53OE samples, 4 / 8 (50%) dysplasia samples and 8 / 8 (100%) carcinoma samples. The p53 mutations detected in MNNM-p53OE were identical to those demonstrated in the adjoining carcinoma and / or dysplasia. No K-ras codon 12 mutation was detected in any of the samples. These results indicate that MNNM-p53OE may share an identical clonal linkage with a coexisting carcinoma and / or dysplasia, and may be an initial and submorphological form of UC-associated neoplasia. Recognition of MNNM-p53OE in biopsy specimens may help to identify patients with UC at risk of developing colorectal carcinoma.