The relationship between p53 gene expression and DNA content in advanced gallbladder carcinoma was studied. Fifty-three cases of advanced gallbladder carcinoma (45 primary tumors and 8 metastases) were analyzed, p53 protein expression was determined by immunohistochemistry, DNA content was measured by cytophotometric techniques. Study subjects included 45 (85%) female and 8 male patients, with an overall mean age of 58.6 years. Positive staining for p53 protein was observed in 27 (51%) cases. In subserosal tumors, the expression was significantly less than that in tumors that reached the serosa (P = 0.01). Twenty-nine (55%) cases were diploid and 24 were aneuploid. Sixty-seven % of primary tumors were diploid, whereas 87% of metastases showed an aneuploid DNA content. Both diploid and aneuploid tumors were positive for the p53 protein in the same proportion, and p53 was also expressed equally in both primary and secondary tumors. In advanced gallbladder carcinoma, the expression of the p53 gene was earlier than the accumulation of abnormal quantities of chromosomal DNA in the tumor cells. The determination of these events as markers in preneoplastic lesions is warranted in gallbladder carcinogenesis.