The protein p53 is capable of participating in neoplastic transformation and can form specific complexes with the large-T antigen of simian virus 40 (SV40). This interaction probably results in the stabilization of p53 (refs 7,8) and may contribute to SV40-mediated transformation. Several non-SV40-transformed cells also exhibit a stabilized p53 which is present in elevated levels. Recently, this stabilization was shown to coincide with the ability to precipitate a polypeptide (p68) of relative molecular mass (Mr) 68,000-70,000 by anti-p53 monoclonal antibodies. We now report that this co-precipitation indeed represents a specific complex between the two proteins; the complex sediments on a sucrose gradient as a relatively broad peak of 10-14S and can be dissociated in vitro. Furthermore, p68 is the HSP70 heat shock protein cognate, found in elevated levels in a p53-overproducing cell line. On heat-shock treatment of such overproducers, p53 also forms a complex with the related highly inducible HSP68.