We examined the reactivity of four p53-specific monoclonal antibodies--PAb 1801, p53-BP-12, D07 and CM1--on sections of formalin-fixed tissue collected from 245 breast carcinomas. Immunodetection of p53 varied between 37.6% and 46.6%. The greatest variation was observed among lobular carcinomas and low-grade tumors in which immunodetection varied between 8.3% and 27.3%. In contrast, immunodetection of p53 in invasive ductal carcinomas was subject to a lower degree of variability with between 40.6% and 49.7% of these tumours proving to be positive. In general, we found antibodies PAb 1801 and DO7 to be the most effective in immunolocalising p53. Immunodetection of p53 with each of the four antibodies was found to correlate strongly with tumour grade. In survival analysis, the results gained using antibody PAb 1801 proved to be of greatest statistical significance and to provide the strongest index of prognosis. A significant relationship was observed between immunodetection of p53 with each of the four antibodies and poor responsiveness to endocrine therapy. In addition, relationships were also observed between p53 immunostaining and tumour oestrogen receptor (ER) status as well as c-jun expression. We observed no correlation between abnormalities of the p53 and the Rb gene products or between elevated c-erbB-2 or epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expression and immunodetection of p53.