The p21 protein inhibits the activity of cyclin-Cdk complexes and suppresses cell cycle progression. Wild type p53 can induce p21, but mutated p53 cannot. Previous studies have demonstrated that mutation of p53 is absent in neuroblastoma (NB). These reports prompted us to examine whether p53 induced p21 in NB. We examined the expression of p21 and p53 mRNA in eight NB, two Ewing's sarcoma (ES) and two primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET) cell lines by Northern blot analysis, and sequenced p53 cDNA of these cells. Although p53 mRNA was detected in all analyzed cell lines by Northern blot analysis, p21 mRNA was detected in six NB but not in two NB, two ES and two PNET cell lines. We detected the point mutation of p53 at codon 273 (CGT to TGT) in one NB and two ES cell lines. The non-transforming substitution at codon 72 (CCC to CGC) was detected in all analyzed cell lines. One PNET cell line had a large deletion of p53 cDNA. These results showed that p21 mRNA was usually expressed in NB but not in ES and PNET. This may suggest that the down stream of the p53 signal transduction pathway in NB is different from that of the closely related tumors of ES and PNET.