Gene therapy with the tumor suppressor gene p53 induces cancer cell apoptosis in vitro and in vivo and inhibits tumor growth in nude mice. We hypothesized that, in addition to cancer cell apoptosis, a replication-deficient adenovirus vector which carries the cDNA for human wild-type p53 (AdCMV.p53) may also modulate endothelial cell function and inhibit angiogenesis. Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) were infected at different multiplicities of infection (MOI) with either AdCMV.p53, the control vector AdCMV.null or were not infected. Western blot analysis showed p53 overexpression up to 7 days after infection with AdCMV.p53. HUVEC proliferation was either not affected (20 and 50 MOI) or inhibited to comparable levels (100 MOI; P < 0.05) in AdCMV.p53- and AdCMV.null-infected versus uninfected cells. HUVEC differentiation into capillary-like structures on reconstituted basement membrane proteins (Matrigel) was assessed 48 h after infection (100 MOI). After 18 h on Matrigel the capillary-like network formed by AdCMV.p53-infected HUVEC was less extensive than that formed by both AdCMV.null-infected and uninfected control cells (P < 0.05 versus either control). In contrast, conditioned medium from AdCMV.p53-infected HUVEC did not modulate endothelial cell differentiation on Matrigel. The effect of AdCMV.p53 on angiogenesis in vivo was assessed by injecting this vector subcutaneously in mice; 3 days later Matrigel containing basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) was injected at the same site. In other experiments AdCMV.p53 was injected simultaneously with an Ad vector coding for vascular endothelial growth factor (AdCMV.VEGF165) into the rat perirenal fat tissue. AdCMV.p53 significantly inhibited neovascularization induced by bFGF within the Matrigel plugs (P < 0.05) or by AdCMV.VEGF165 in the fat tissue (P < 0.05). Thus, the anti-angiogenic effect of Ad-mediated wild-type p53 overexpression may contribute to the ability of this viral vector to inhibit tumor growth.