We have examined p53 protein levels in cell lines selected for resistance to the chemotherapeutic drug cis-diamminedichloroplatinum (II), cisplatin. The majority of the independent cisplatin-resistant clones isolated by a single selection with cisplatin from the ovarian tumour cell line A2780 showed increased levels of p53 protein compared to the parental cell line. Elevated p53 protein levels were also observed in cisplatin-resistant ovarian human tumour lines isolated after multiple exposures to cisplatin (A2780/cp70 and OVIP/DDP). Direct PCR sequencing of p53 cDNAs showed that both the A2780/cp70 and the parental A2780 cell lines had a wild-type p53 gene sequence. The OVIP and OVIP/DDP lines both had a heterozygous mutation at codon 126. Cell-cycle analysis after gamma-irradiation or cisplatin treatment showed evidence of a G1/S and G2/M cell-cycle checkpoint in both A2780/cp70 and the sensitive parental cell lines. However, the resistant cell line A2780/cp70 showed less inhibition of DNA synthesis after gamma-irradiation than the sensitive cell line. Transfection of a mutant p53 gene construct (containing a mutation at codon 143, val to ala) into the A2780/cp70 resistant cells conferred a significantly increased sensitivity to cisplatin, suggesting that p53 is a direct determinant of cisplatin resistance in these cells. However, expression of this mutant p53 in the A2780 cells did not affect sensitivity.