p53 mutations are found in a variety of neoplasia. B-immunoblastic lymphoma (BIBL) is a rapidly progressive, aggressive lymphoma. As patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) live longer, BIBL is becoming an increasing problem. We asked three questions in our study. What is the frequency of p53 mutations in BIBL? Is it more frequent in patients with AIDS? Can immunohistochemical staining of lymph nodes for expression of p53 substitute for mutational analysis of p53 to detect lymphomas with mutated p53? Exons 5, 6, 7, 8 of the p53 gene (hot-spots for mutations) were amplified and examined for mutations by single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis. Altered migration was observed in 7 of 52 BIBL samples. Of these, 4 of 25 were from individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and 3 of 27 were not infected with HIV. Direct sequencing of amplified material confirmed the presence of mutations in exons 5, 7, 8 of p53. A total of 26 BIBL as well as other lymphoma/leukemia samples, stained strongly by immunohistochemistry with three antibodies directed against human p53. Five of 6 BIBL samples with p53 mutations stained strongly for p53, but 20 lymphoma samples with no detectable p53 mutations also stained strongly for p53. Of note, however, 10 hyperplastic, nonmalignant lymph nodes from individuals either infected or not infected with HIV had negligible staining for p53 protein. In conclusion, p53 mutations occur in about 14% BIBL samples; the frequency of p53 mutations in BIBL in individuals with and without AIDS was similar. Positive p53 immunohistochemistry did not correlate with detectable p53 mutations in the same tissue, but positive immunohistochemical staining for p53 was only found in neoplastic lymph nodes. This latter finding provides a strong warning that p53 immunochemistry with available reagents cannot be used to determine which tumors have mutations of p53.