We previously reported that most cancer cell lines constitutively express various cytokines including IL-8. But how IL-8 gene expression is regulated in cancer cells is still unclear. p53 tumor suppressor gene plays an important role in the regulation of transcription and is mutated in cancer cell lines. We investigated whether p53 status affects the constitutive expression of IL-8 in human cancer cells. SUIT-2 and RERF-LCOK cancer cells constitutively produced high levels of IL-8 in culture medium. Both cell lines were shown to carry a p53 mutation, and constitutive NF-kappaB transcriptional activity. To analyze whether p53 status mediates IL-8 expression, the effect of wild-type p53 (wt-p53) gene transfer on activation of NF-kappaB was determined in both cell lines. ELISA showed that the IL-8 concentration in medium decreased dose dependently by transient expression of wt-p53. Western-blot analysis showed no marked change in NF-kappaB protein levels in cell nuclei. EMSA showed no repression of NF-kappaB binding activity after transient expression of wt-p53. In contrast, luciferase reporter studies indicated that transcriptional activity of NF-kappaB is suppressed by transfection of wt-p53. These results show that wt-p53 gene transfer inhibits IL-8 production and NF-kappaB transcription activity in cancer cells and suggest that constitutive IL-8 production in cancer cells is associated with mutation of p53.