Most of the oncogenic mutations in the tumor suppressor p53 map to its DNA-binding (core) domain. It is thus a potential target in cancer therapy for rescue by drugs. To begin to understand how mutation inactivates p53 and hence to provide a structural basis for drug design, we have compared structures of wild-type and mutant p53 core domains in solution by NMR spectroscopy. Structural changes introduced by five hot-spot mutations (V143A, G245S, R248Q, R249S, and R273H) were monitored by chemical-shift changes. Only localized changes are observed for G245S, R248Q, R249S, and R273H, suggesting that the overall tertiary folds of these mutant proteins are similar to that of wild type. Structural changes in R273H are found mainly in the loop-sheet-helix motif and the loop L3 of the core domain. Mutations in L3 (G245S, R248Q, and R249S) introduce structural changes in the loop L2 and L3 as well as terminal residues of strands 4, 9, and 10. It is noteworthy that R248Q, which is often regarded as a contact mutant that affects only interactions with DNA, introduces structural changes as extensive as the other loop L3 mutations (G245S and R249S). These changes suggest that R248Q is also a structural mutant that perturbs the structure of loop L2-L3 regions of the p53 core domain. In contrast to other mutants, replacement of the core residue valine 143 to alanine causes chemical-shift changes in almost all residues in the beta-sandwich and the DNA-binding surface. Long-range effects of V143A mutation may affect the specificity of DNA binding.