The aim of the current study was to identify genetic abnormalities in human colorectal adenoma and carcinoma derived cell lines, and to determine whether the genetic changes which occur in vitro are relevant to the in vivo situation. Loss of 1p(33-35) region was shown to be the most common chromosome 1 abnormality and loss of heterozygosity (LOH) of the DCC gene and/or adjacent sequences was detected in all adenoma derived cells as well as the carcinoma cell lines. The level of p53 protein was also investigated as increased cellular p53 protein had previously been associated with mutation of the p53 gene. A further aim was to investigate genetic changes in our in vitro model of tumour progression, where the adenoma derived PC/AA cell line has previously been converted in vitro to two distinct tumorigenic phenotypes, producing either an adenocarcinoma or a mucinous carcinoma in athymic nude mice. Progression to the adenocarcinoma phenotype was shown to involve a specific chromosome 1 rearrangement, loss of both normal copies of chromosome 18 (although DCC gene sequences were retained), loss of the remaining wild type allele of k-ras resulting in homozygosity for the k-ras codon 12 mutation and increased cellular p53 protein as detected by SDS-PAGE Western blotting. The increase in p53 protein was shown not to be due to the acquisition of a mutation in the p53 gene. Interestingly, progression of the adenoma derived PC/AA cell line to the mucinous malignant phenotype did not involve any of these molecular rearrangements, suggesting that different genetically distinct pathways are involved in colorectal carcinogenesis. These studies show that the genetic changes in our in vitro model of human colorectal tumour progression are similar to those observed in in vivo studies.