Mutant p53 can contribute to transformation, while wild-type (wt) p53 is not oncogenic and actually inhibits transformation. Furthermore, wt p53 may act as a suppressor gene in human carcinogenesis. We now describe the temperature-sensitive behavior of a particular mutant, p53val135. Like other p53 mutants, it can elicit transformation at 37.5 degrees C. However, at 32.5 degrees C it suppresses transformation, behaving like authentic wt p53. Moreover, the proliferation of transformed cells expressing p53val135 is dramatically inhibited at the permissive temperature. Significantly, the inhibition of both transformation and proliferation is reversible upon temperature upshift. These data demonstrate that the ability of wt p53 to suppress transformation is not due to a general lethal effect, but rather to a reversible growth arrest. p53val135 may prove instrumental for gaining insight into the cellular and molecular properties of wt p53.