p53 is a tumour suppressor gene which functions as a transcription factor to upregulate genes for growth arrest and apoptosis following DNA damage. p53 mutations are associated with Li-Fraumeni and Li-Fraumeni like syndromes. Recently mutations of the oligomerization domain have been isolated from an LFS and an LFL family affecting respectively codon 344 (Leu to Pro) and 337 (Arg to Cys). The present study was designed to determine the affect of these mutations on the function of p53 protein. p53 344 Leu to Pro existed only in a monomeric form and could not bind to DNA. It was inactive at inducing apoptosis, transactivating luciferase from a bax promoter and inhibiting cell growth. In contrast, p53 337 Arg to Cys could form tetramers and could bind to DNA. However, p53 337 Arg to Cys was not fully active and could only induce apoptosis, transactivate luciferase from a bax promoter and inhibit cell growth with approximately 60% of the ability of wild-type p53. Both mutant proteins had reduced ability to bind to MDM2, p53 337 Arg to Cys being more reduced than p53 344 Leu to Pro. These results indicate that point mutations in the oligomerization domain can disrupt p53 function. In addition, the value of LFS and LFL families for the further understanding of the biological and biochemical properties of p53 is demonstrated.