Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is molecularly characterized by bcl-1 rearrangement and cyclin D1/PRAD-1 gene overexpression. Some aggressive variants have been recognized with a blastic or large cell morphology, higher proliferative activity, and shorter survival. p53 gene mutations in lymphoid neoplasms have been detected mainly in high grade lymphomas and have been associated with tumor progression in follicular and small lymphocytic lymphomas. To determine the role of p53 alterations in MCL, we examined 35 typical and 8 aggressive variants (5 blastic and 3 large cell) of MCLs by a combination of immunohistochemistry, single-strand conformational polymorphism analysis of genomic DNA and/or cDNA obtained by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, and sequencing. Of the 8 aggressive MCLs, 3 (38%) contained missense point mutations in axon 8 codon 278 (Pro --> Leu), exon 8 codon 273 Arg --> His), and exon 5 codon 151 (Pro --> Ser), respectively. A diffuse p53 protein overexpression was observed in more than 50% of the tumor cells in these 3 cases. A fourth blastic MCL also showed strong p53 immunoreactivity. However, no mutations were detected in exons 5–9 in this case. p53 expression was also detected in 10% of the cells in an additional large cell type of MCL and in less than 1% of the cells in 6 typical cases. No mutations were detected in any of these cases or in the remaining cases with no expression of the protein. Four nucleotide changes were observed by single-strand conformational polymorphism analysis in 4 typical MCLs with no overexpression of the protein. Direct sequencing showed that these nucleotide changes were located at exon 6 (1 case), intron 7 (2 cases), and intron 8 (1 case). The changes in exon 6 and intron 7 were known polymorphisms. The nucleotide change in intron 8 was outside splicing sites of the neighboring exons. The overall survival of the 3 patients with p53 mutations (median, 18.3 months) was significantly shorter than that of patients with the nonmutated MCLs (median, 49 months; P < .01). These findings indicate that p53 gene mutations are an infrequent phenomenon in MCLs and are associated with a subset of aggressive variants.