BACKGROUND: The pathogenesis of lung cancer includes the accumulation of multiple genetic abnormalities. The CREB-binding protein(CBP) is one of several transcriptional co-activators among various sequence-specific DNA-binding transcription factors. CBP is involved in a wide range of cellular activities, such as DNA repair, cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis that are suspected of contributing to tumorigenesis. The goal of this study was to evaluate CBP expression in a series of human lung tissues containing normal epithelium, premalignant lesions(hyperplasia and dysplasia) and squamous cell carcinomas. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Immunohistochemical staining was performed on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded sections by use of a monoclonal anti-CBP antibody. CBP expression was compared in samples from 120 patients with premalignant and malignant histological types including 20 metaplastic specimens, 40 dysplastic specimens, and 60 squamous cell carcinomas in the lung. RESULTS: CBP expression was seen in 35% (7/20) of the metaplastic specimens. 65% (26/40) of the dysplastic specimens, and 70% (42/60) of the squamous cell carcinomas (p<0.05). According to celluar atypism, CBP expression was 50% (10/20) of the low-grade dysplastic specimens and 80% (16/20) of the high-grade dysplastic specimens(p <0.01). By cellular differentiation, CBP expression was seen in 95% (19/20) of the well differentiated squamous cell carcinomas, 85% (17/20) of the moderately differentiated carcinomas and 30% (6/20) of the poorly differentiated lesions (p <0.05). CONCLUSION: These results suggest that CBP may have an important role in malignant transformation of precancerous lung lesions and may be a marker for malignancy.