Aberrations of the p53 gene in 43 primary hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) were examined by single-strand conformation polymorphism analysis of polymerase chain reaction products. Of these hepatocellular carcinomas, 22 were advanced HCCs, and 21 were early HCCs. Structural abnormalities of the p53 gene were observed in eight of the 22 advanced HCCs, but in none of the early HCCs. Of the eight tumors with an abnormal p53 gene, seven had lost one of the two p53 alleles and, in the seven tumors with identifiable mutations, point mutations were found in four tumors and deletions of several nucleotides were observed in two tumors. The remaining one retained both alleles and carried two point mutations. In addition to the aberrations of the p53 gene, loss of the retinoblastoma gene or loss of heterozygosity at chromosome 13q was observed in six of seven informative cases of eight tumors carrying a mutated p53 gene. These results suggest the involvement of at least two tumor suppressor genes in a late stage of hepatocarcinogenesis.