The p53 gene is one of the best studied tumour suppressor genes. Recently we performed mutation analysis on the p53 gene in a large number of bone and soft tissue sarcomas, and found that approximately one-third of the sarcomas have some type of DNA alteration at the p53 locus (Toguchida et al., 1992). However, the expression of the p53 protein resulting from these alterations still remains to be clarified. In this study, p53 expression in the sarcoma tissues was analysed immunohistochemically using antibody PAb421 (Oncogene Science) and its relationship to DNA alterations was examined. Of 113 tumours, 29 (25.7%) showed positive staining for the p53 protein. These included 19 of 67 osteosarcomas, five of 20 chondrosarcomas, four of 11 malignant fibrous histiocytomas (MFHs) and one Ewing's sarcoma. In chondrosarcomas, most of the p53-positive tumours belonged to highly malignant and atypical tumour types (dedifferentiated or mesenchymal type), suggesting a role for p53 mutation in the progression of cartilaginous tumours. All the cases with a missense mutation showed strongly positive staining, while no immunoreactivity was observed in the remaining three-quarters with DNA alterations including gross rearrangement, frame-shift mutation, nonsense mutation or mutation at splicing site except in one case. These results demonstrated the dominance of the p53 mutations with null protein expression in bone and soft tissue sarcomas, showing a unique characteristic of these types of tumours compared with other malignancies such as colon carcinomas.