Accumulation of p53 protein was determined by immunohistochemistry in archival material of biopsy specimens from 102 patients with Barrett's oesophagus with different grades of dysplasia, in 24 oesophageal adenocarcinomas associated with Barrett's oesophagus, and in 23 cases of metaplastic epithelium adjacent to these carcinomas. Immunostaining for the p53 protein was found in 23/102 (23 per cent) cases of the Barrett's oesophagus biopsies and in 12/23 (52 per cent) cases of Barrett's oesophagus adjacent to adenocarcinoma. Significant correlations were found between the grade of dysplasia and p53 immunoreactivity in both Barrett's biopsies without adenocarcinoma (P < 0.001) and Barrett's oesophagus adjacent to adenocarcinoma (P < 0.05). In the adenocarcinomas, intense nuclear immunohistochemical staining for p53 was diffusely or focally present in 20/24 (83 per cent) of the specimens. In Barrett's oesophagus, p53 is a progression marker with high expression in high-grade dysplasia (89 per cent) and adenocarcinoma (83 per cent).