Inactivation of the p53 tumour-suppressor gene is common in a wide variety of human neoplasms. In the majority of cases, single point mutations in the protein-encoding sequence of p53 lead to positive immunohistochemistry (IHC) for the p53 protein, and are accompanied by loss of the wild-type allele. Recently, the WAF1/Cip1 gene was identified as one of the genes induced by wild-type p53, and increased expression of p21WAF1/Cip1 has been found to reflect the status of the p53 tumour-suppressor pathway. We investigated the inactivation of p53 in a relatively small, but well-characterised, group of 46 colorectal carcinomas that were previously studied for allelic alterations, ras oncogene mutations and DNA aneuploidy. Alterations in p53 were identified by IHC, loss of 17p and DNA sequence analysis of exons 5-8, whereas p21WAF1/Cip1 protein expression was determined by IHC. p53 mutations were identified in 19 of the 46 tumours (41%), whereas positive IHC for p53 was found in 21 of the 46 tumours (46%). Positive IHC for p21WAF1/Cip1 was detected in 16 of 42 cases (38%). We found no relationship between p21WAF1/Cip1 staining and p53 protein expression or p53 mutational status. Inactivating mutations in the p53 gene correlated with LOH at 17p but not with LOH at 5q or 18q, Dukes' stage, tumour grade or DNA ploidy. There was a higher survival rate independent of Dukes' stage in the group with no alterations in p53 compared with those with evidence of dysfunction of p53, but the difference was not statistically significant. We conclude that inactivation of p53 and altered expression of p21WAF1/Cip1 are common in colorectal carcinoma but do not correlate with each other or with the clinical or pathological parameters investigated.