Accumulation of the tumour suppressor gene p53 product due to a gene mutation is frequently seen in human carcinomas, including lung carcinoma. Another indirect mechanism involving p53 in malignant growth relates to the E6 protein of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is able to bind and degrade wild-type p53 protein, thus eliminating its tumour suppressor activities. Bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma (BAC) is a rare type of lung carcinoma. The aim of our study was to examine the occurrence of p53 accumulation and the presence of HPV DNA in BAC. Sections of 22 BACs were immunohistochemically stained using a p53 antibody, CM-1. The presence of HPV DNA in BACs was verified by in situ hybridisation for HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31 and 33 and confirmed by PCR. Thirty-six percent of the tumours showed abnormal p53 nuclear accumulation, and HPV DNA, revealed by in situ hybridisation, was found in 36%. Unexpectedly, only 13% of the type 1 BACs were positive for p53, whereas 45% of the type 2 BACs were positive. During a follow-up of 12-176 months, only 10% of the patients with BACs negative for both p53 and HPV died of the disease, compared with 42% of the patients with either p53 or HPV positivity. No inverse relationship between abnormal p53 protein accumulation and the presence of HPV DNA was found.