Immunohistochemical detection of intranuclear p53 gene product may indicate mutation of the p53 suppressor gene on chromosome 17p. We used six commercially available antibodies for p53 immunohistochemistry on 19 archival colorectal neoplasms and compared the results with the mutation status of the p53 gene and 17p allelic deletion status. By Friedman's ranking analysis, use of mouse monoclonal antibody DO7 with Target Unmasking Fluid (TUF) for antigen retrieval was the most sensitive and specific procedure (P < 0.0001). Six of 7 cases with high expression (p53 Labeling Index > 30 per cent using a CAS 200 image analyser) had p53 mutation. Of seven tumours without expression (LI < 1 per cent), six had no mutation and one had a truncating mutation which prohibited nuclear localization of gene product. The low expression group (1 per cent < LI < 30 per cent, n = 5) consisted of three tumours without and two tumours with mutation. The sensitivity of high expression with the DO7-TUF method for p53 gene mutation was 67 per cent with specificity of 90 per cent, predictive value of a positive of 86 per cent, predictive value of a negative of 75 per cent, and efficiency of 79 per cent. This study suggests that immunohistochemistry is valuable for assessing p53 gene mutations in colorectal neoplasms, but further study is needed to elucidate the precise link between immunohistochemistry and molecular genetic alterations.