Using CM-1 antibody directed against the human p53 protein, high levels of mutant p53 protein expression were found in 12 out of 18 malignant choroidal melanomas. In contrast, we failed to observe elevated p53 expression, indicating the absence of p53 mutation in seven choroidal naevi, a potentially premalignant condition that can progress to form malignant melanoma. For two choroidal melanomas, we demonstrated that high levels of p53 protein were accompanied by exon 7 mutations. The mutations were found at codon 238, TGT-->TTT and codon 253, ACC-->AGC. These observations suggest that acquisition of abnormalities of the p53 gene may be an important step in the development of malignant melanoma.