In both the primary tumor and associated lymph-node metastases of 40 cases of Dukes' C colorectal adenocarcinomas, exons 5 to 9 of the p53 tumor-suppressor gene were examined by PCR amplification and single-strand-conformation-polymorphism(SSCP) analysis. Mobility shifts indicating p53 mutations, which were confirmed by direct sequencing, were identified in 14 primary cancers (35%) and in 19 of the 40 lymph-node metastases (48%). In 12 cases (30%), the p53-mutation status in the primary cancer and its lymph-node metastases was identical. This result is compatible with the hypothesis that when a p53 mutation occurs before the establishment of lymph-node metastasis, it subsequently persists in the metastatic nodes. In 7 cases (18%), p53 mutations were identified in lymph-node metastases that were not concordant with the p53 status in the primary tumor. This finding can be explained by assuming that (1) p53 heterogeneity existing in the primary tumor is not reflected in all metastases and/or (2) new p53 mutations may occur during the development of metastatic lesions.