Missense mutations in the p53 tumor suppressor occur frequently in human breast cancer and influence both the prognosis and response to chemotherapy. Amino acid 175 (equivalent to murine 172) is the second most common site of missense mutations in p53 in human breast cancer. Over 95% of these mutations are arginine-to-histidine (R-H) substitutions resulting in a gain-of-function, and not merely a dominant-negative phenotype. Transgenic mice expressing a p53 172(R-H) construct targeted to the mammary gland by means of a whey acidic protein (WAP) promoter were characterized as a model system in order to determine the specific effects of this mutation on mammary tumorigenesis. Although transgene expression alone had no apparent effect on normal mammary development, transgenic mice treated with the chemical carcinogen dimethylbenz(a)anthracene developed tumors with much shorter latency than did control littermates and had a greater tumor burden. Tumors arising in transgenic mice did not exhibit either decreased apoptosis or increased cell proliferation relative to tumors arising in nontransgenic littermates, but did display increased genomic instability. Large pleiomorphic nuclei were visible in many tumors from transgenic mice, and DNA flow analysis confirmed the presence of significant aneuploid cell populations. Since these transgenic mice develop very few spontaneous tumors, while accelerating carcinogen-and oncogene-mediated tumorigenesis, this mouse model will, therefore, be useful in the investigation of early events in mammary tumorigenesis. It may also be used as a preclinical model to test newly developed chemotherapeutic strategies.