There is now good evidence that the cellular protein, p53, is involved in the transformation process, although its precise role is unknown. It was reported recently that expression of the p53 gene can immortalize cells and that the p53 gene can replace the myc oncogene in a myc-ras immortalization/transformation assay. We have investigated whether p53 is involved in the progression towards the neoplastic state in vivo and report here that erythroleukaemic cell lines transformed by different isolates of Friend leukaemia virus show altered expression of the cellular p53 gene. High levels of p53 protein are found in certain lines, but the protein is undetectable in others. This heterogeneity in p53 gene expression is associated with heterogeneity in tumorigenicity. We demonstrate that genomic rearrangements are responsible for p53 gene inactivation in these cell lines and that they occur in vivo during the natural progression of Friend virus-induced erythroleukaemia.