AIMS: To analyse the expression of p53 in lymphatic cells found in inflammatory tissues and the peripheral blood by immunological methods. METHODS: Immunohistological analysis of synovial tissues from patients with rheumatoid arthritis and flow cytometric analysis of peripheral blood lymphocytes were performed with anti-p53 antibodies from different sources. RESULTS: The anti-p53 antibodies PAb240, PAb421, and PAb1801 from one supplier bound to the cytoplasm of lymphocytes, fibroblasts, and endothelial cells in rheumatoid synovial tissue, while the same anti-p53 antibodies from other sources and the p53 specific antibodies PAb1620 and DO1 were negative. Using flow cytometry, the antibodies that labelled cells in inflammatory tissues were shown to bind also to peripheral lymphocytes, while the antibodies that were negative in immunohistology did not react with peripheral blood lymphocytes. p53 expression could be confirmed by western blot in rheumatoid synovial tissue, but not in peripheral blood lymphocytes using PAb421 and PAb240 antibodies from our own laboratory, which had been negative in immunohistology. CONCLUSIONS: Demonstration of p53 by western blot is more sensitive and reliable than immunohistology and flow cytometry. Western blot is the gold standard for the demonstration of p53 expression and should be used, whenever possible, to confirm p53 expression in normal tissue shown by immunohistology or flow cytometry. All other reports on p53 expression, especially those obtained using antibodies with an unusual staining pattern must be interpreted with caution.