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Thirty percent of human breast cancers have amplification of ERBB2, often in conjunction with mutations in p53. The most common p53 mutation in human breast cancers is an Arg-to-His mutation at codon 175, an allele that functions in a dominant oncogenic manner in tumorigenesis assays and is thus distinct from loss of p53. Transgenic mice expressing mouse mammary tumor virus-driven neu transgene (MMTV-neu) develop clonal mammary tumors with a latency of 234 days, suggesting that other events are necessary for tumor development. We have examined the role of mutations in p53 in tumor development in these mice. We have found that 37% of tumors arising in these mice have a missense mutations in p53. We have directly tested for cooperativity between neu and mutant p53 in mammary tumorigenesis by creating bitransgenic mice carrying MMTV-neu and 172Arg-to-His p53 mutant (p53-172H). In these bitransgenic mice, tumor latency is shortened to 154 days, indicating strong cooperativity. None of the nontransgenic mice or the p53-172H transgenic mice developed tumors within this time period. Tumors arising in the p53-172H/neu bitransgenic mice were anaplastic and aneuploid and exhibited increased apoptosis, in distinction to tumors arising in p53-null mice, in which apoptosis is diminished. Further experiments address potential mechanisms of cooperativity between the two transgenes. In these bitransgenic mice, we have recapitulated two common genetic lesions that occur in human breast cancer and have shown that p53 mutation is an important cooperating event in neu-mediated oncogenesis.