p53 overexpression has been found to be a fairly common feature in high grade lymphomas in the majority of tumoral cells. The results vary from series to series, from 25% to 33% of cases. To assess whether immunohistochemical positivity for p53 correlated with the presence of structural gene abnormalities, DNA from 16 non-Hodgkin's lymphomas with high and low p53 values was amplified and sequenced to determine the existence of point mutations in the highly conserved regions of the p53 gene. In the group of 8 cases containing high levels of protein, 3 cases showed missense point mutations at the codons mapping between exons 5 through 8. Of the 8 cases of tumors containing undetectable or low levels of p53 protein, 1 case presented a nonsense point mutation giving a stop codon. No missense mutations were detected in this group. The finding of p53 mutations in 4 of 16 cases confirms the presence of p53 gene mutations in high grade lymphomas distributed over different histologic groups. These include Burkitt's lymphoma, together with centroblastic, immunoblastic, and large cell lymphoma of mucosa origin. Nevertheless, the absence of mutations in 5 of the 8 cases that overexpressed p53 suggests that the nuclear or cytoplasmic stabilization of p53 protein could also depend on other factors. The absence of detectable levels of p53 protein cannot discount the existence of p53 mutations, as is shown by a case of Burkitt's lymphoma in which a nonsense mutation was detected. The impact of this range of p53 alterations on clinical course and treatment response of the patients deserves to be explored, in an attempt to differentiate the specific consequences of each one.