Mutations in the p53 gene have been associated with a wide range of human tumors, including osteosarcomas. Although it has been shown that wild-type p53 can block the ability of E1a and ras to cotransform primary rodent cells, it is poorly understood why inactivation of the p53 gene is important for tumor formation. We show that overexpression of the gene encoding wild-type p53 blocks the growth of osteosarcoma cells. The growth arrest was determined to be due to an inability of the transfected cells to progress into S phase. This suggests that the role of the p53 gene as an antioncogene may be in controlling the cell cycle in a fashion analogous to the check-point control genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.