Human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC) from patients in Qidong, an area of high incidence in China, in which both hepatitis B virus and aflatoxin B1 are risk factors, were analysed for mutations in p53, a putative tumour-suppressor gene. Eight of the 16 HCC had a point mutation at the third base position of codon 249. The G----T transversion in seven HCC DNA samples and the G----C transversion in the other HCC are consistent with mutations caused by aflatoxin B1 in mutagenesis experiments. No mutations were found in exons 5,6,8 or the remainder of exon 7. These results contrast with p53 mutations previously reported in carcinomas and sarcomas of human lung, colon, oesophagus and breast; these are primarily scattered over four of the five evolutionarily conserved domains, which include codon 249 (refs 4-9). We suggest that the mutant p53 protein may be responsible for a selective clonal expansion of hepatocytes during carcinogenesis.