Minichromosome maintenance proteins (MCM) have recently emerged as novel proliferation markers with prognostic implications in several tumour types. This is the first study investigating MCM-2 and MCM-5 immunohistochemical expression in a series of ovarian adenocarcinomas and low malignant potential (LMP) tumours aiming to determine possible associations with clinicopathological parameters, the conventional proliferation index Ki-67, cell cycle regulators (p53, p27(Kip1), p21(WAF1) and pRb) and patients' outcome. Immunohistochemistry was applied in a series of 43 cases of ovarian LMP tumours and 85 cases of adenocarcinomas. Survival analysis was restricted to adenocarcinomas. The median MCM-2 and MCM-5 labelling indices (LIs) were significantly higher in adenocarcinomas compared to LMP tumours (P<0.0001 for both associations). In adenocarcinomas, the levels of MCM-2 and MCM-5 increased significantly with advancing tumour stage (P=0.0052 and P=0.0180, respectively), whereas both MCM-2 and MCM-5 increased significantly with increasing tumour grade (P=0.0002 and P=0.0006, respectively) and the presence of bulky residual disease (P<0.0001 in both relationships). A strong positive correlation was established between MCM-2 or MCM-5 expression level and Ki-67 LI (P<0.0001) as well as p53 protein (P=0.0038 and P=0.0500, respectively). Moreover, MCM-2 LI was inversely correlated with p27(Kip-1) LI (P=0.0068). Finally, both MCM-2 and MCM-5 were associated significantly with adverse patients' outcome in both univariate (> or =20 vs >20%, P=0.0011 and > or =25 vs <25%, P=0.0100, respectively) and multivariate (P=0.0001 and 0.0090, respectively) analysis. An adequately powered independent group of 45 patients was used in order to validate our results in univariate survival analysis. In this group, MCM-2 and MCM-5 expression retained their prognostic significance (P<0.0001 in both relationships). In conclusion, MCM-2 and MCM-5 proteins appear to be promising as prognostic markers in patients with ovarian adenocarcinomas.