We examined structure and expression of the p53 and Rb genes in a C3HOS transplantable mouse model of osteosarcoma. The results were compared to analogous studies conducted with five human osteosarcoma cell lines. The p53 gene was found rearranged in the mouse tumour. The rearrangement mapped to the first intron region of the p53 gene and as a result, no p53 expression could be detected in C3HOS tumours. Using p53 genomic probes, we have detected the same rearrangement in the original radiation-induced tumour and the various clones that were isolated from it. Deletion and rearrangement of the p53 gene were also found in three out of five of the human osteosarcoma cell lines (MG-63, G-292, Saos-2). No p53 expression could be detected in these three cell lines. In the affected human osteosarcoma cell lines, the rearrangement involved the first intron region. In addition, the mouse tumor was analysed for structural and expression changes in the Rb and the c-myc genes. Normal expression of both genes were detected in the murine tumour. Only one (Saos-2) human osteosarcoma cell line exhibited gross structural alteration in the retinoblastoma gene. The results suggest that the inactivation of p53 may be an important step in the development of osteosarcomas, and that a rearrangement affecting the first intron is common in osteosarcomas.