Thirty-four pancreatic adenocarcinomas were studied for the presence of p53 gene mutations by the single-strand conformation polymorphism method and by direct sequencing of PCR-amplified fragments. p53 protein expression was immunohistochemically evaluated using monoclonal PAb1801 and polyclonal CM1 antibodies. Mutations were detected in 14 cases. The transitions were six G to A and two A to G; the transversions were one C to G and two A to C; the remaining three were frameshift mutations. Immunostaining results were identical with both antibodies. Nuclear immunohistochemical p53-positive cells were found in nine p53 mutated cases and in 12 cases in which no mutation was detected. In most of these latter cases only a minority of cancer cells showed immunohistochemical positivity. Twenty-nine cases, including all p53 mutated cancers, were known to contain codon 12 Ki-ras gene mutations. Also in the light of the demonstrated cooperation of ras and p53 gene alterations in the transformation of cultured cells, our data suggest that p53 mutation is one of the genetic defects that may have a role in the pathogenesis of a proportion of pancreatic cancers.