Missense point mutations, leading to inactivation of the p53 tumor suppressor gene product, are currently the most frequent alterations in human cancer. Little, however, is known about small intragenic deletions or insertions occurring in this locus of chromosome 17. We have analyzed 56 primary ovarian tumors for the presence of such abnormalities. The analysis was based on multiplex PCR amplification of exons 1 through 11 of the p53 gene and fragment analysis of the generated PCR products. Mutations were detected in 14% (8 of 56) of the tumors. Deletions were much more prevalent than insertions (seven vs one). Six of the deletions and the insertion affected exon 5, and the other deletion was in exon 7. Two deletions and the insertion did not disrupt the reading frame; the protein product was expressed in the tumor at high concentrations in all three cases. The other five deletions generated a frameshift, which is predicted to result in the production of a truncated protein product. In the case of the deletions, a 2–5-bp repeat was present close to the detected deletion, whereas the insertion duplicated the sequence immediately upstream of the insertion site. Overall our findings indicate that small intragenic p53 deletions/insertions are not rare events in ovarian cancer, and that p53 exon 5 is the target in the vast majority (88%) of the cases.