The human antigen defined by the monoclonal antibody Ki-67 (pKi-67) is a human nuclear protein strongly associated with cell proliferation and found in all tissues studied. It is widely used as a marker of proliferating cells, yet its function is unknown. To investigate its function we suppressed pKi-67 expression by antisense RNA and overexpressed a partial structure of pKi-67 in HeLa cells. A BrdU-incorporation assay showed a significant decrease in DNA synthesis after antisense inhibition. Cell cycle analysis phase and indicated a higher proportion of cells in G1 a lower proportion of cells in S phase while the number of G2/M phase cells remained constant. Overexpression of a recombinant protein encoding three of the repetitive elements from exon 13 of pKi-67 had a similar effect to that obtained by antisense inhibition. The similarity of the effect of expressing 'Ki-67 repeats' and pKi-67 antisense RNA could be explained by a negative effect on the folding of the endogenous protein in the endoplasmatic reticulum. Furthermore excessive self-association of pKi-67 via the repeat structure could inhibit its nuclear transport, preventing it from getting to its presumptive site of action. We conclude that the Ki-67 protein has an important role in the regulation of the cell cycle, which is mediated in part by its repetitive elements.