Mutations of the p53 tumor suppressor gene are the most common molecular genetic abnormality to be described in ovarian cancer. To determine the feasibility of mutant p53 as a molecular target for gene therapy in ovarian cancer, we constructed an adenovirus vector containing the wild-type p53 gene. The ability of this adenovirus construct (Ad-CMV-p53) to express p53 protein was examined by Western blot analysis in the H358 lung cancer cell line, which has a homozygous deletion of the p53 gene. The ability of the adenovirus vector system to infect ovarian cancer cells was tested using an adenovirus containing the beta-galactosidase reporter gene under the control of the CMV promoter (Ad-CMV-beta gal). The ovarian cancer cell line 2774, which contains an Arg273His p53 mutation, was infected with Ad-CMV-beta gal, and the infected cells were assayed for beta-galactosidase activity after 24 hr. To test the ability of wild-type p53 to inhibit cell growth, the 2774 cell line was infected with Ad-CMV-p53 or Ad-CMV-beta gal, and the effect of these agents on the growth of 2774 cells was determined using an in vitro growth inhibition assay. Western blot analysis of lysates from H358 cells infected with Ad-CMV-p53 showed expression of wild-type p53 protein. When 2774 cells were infected with Ad-CMV-beta gal at a multiplicity of infection (m.o.i.) of 10 PFU/cell, > 90% of cells showed beta-galactosidase activity, demonstrating that these cells are capable of efficient infection by the adenovirus vector. Growth of 2774 cells infected with Ad-CMV-p53 was inhibited by > 90% compared to noninfected cells. The ability of the adenovirus vector to mediate high-level expression of infected genes and the inhibitory effect of Ad-CMV-p53 on the 2774 cell line suggests that the Ad-CMV-p53 could be further developed into a therapeutic agent for ovarian cancer.