Dedifferentiated liposarcoma represents a distinct subtype of liposarcoma and is characterized by the presence of abrupt transition from well-differentiated liposarcoma to high-grade pleomorphic sarcoma (mostly MFH-like). A key role for p53 in tumour progression of this subset of liposarcomas has been suggested on the basis of p53 immunopositivity. A series of 14 dedifferentiated liposarcomas has been investigated by analysing the p53 gene and protein together with the p53-related molecules p21Waf1 and mdm2, to verify whether the p53 pathway is involved in the development and progression of this tumour type. The results indicate that the p53 gene is rarely involved in dedifferentiated liposarcoma (7 per cent of cases analysed) and that low percentages of p53 immunopositivity are still compatible with integrity of the p53 gene. This concept is also supported by the observed preservation of p21Waf1 immunoreactivity in all but the p53-mutated cases. By contrast, mdm2 overexpression emerges as the most frequent abnormality in dedifferentiated liposarcoma (57 and 78 per cent of cases in well-differentiated and high-grade areas, respectively).