We tested the hypothesis that mechanical unloading facilitates signaling of p53, an important modulator of cell cycling and apoptosis, in bone marrow cells and thereby reduces trabecular bone volume (BV). We performed histomorphometric analyses and bone marrow cell cultures in tail-suspended (TS) p53 null (p53-/-) and wild-type (p53+/+) mice. Eight-week-old male mice were assigned to four groups after 1-week acclimatization: p53+/+ + ground control (GC), p53+/+ + TS, p53-/- + GC, and p53-/- + TS. Bilateral tibial samples were used for analysis. The histomorphometric parameters of trabecular structure, formation and resorption did not differ between the p53-/- + GC and p53+/+ + GC groups. Trabecular BV in p53+/+ + TS mice was significantly reduced to 45% of that in the p53+/+ + GC group after one week of TS. In contrast, BV in p53-/- + TS mice was preserved at the same level as that in the p53-/- + GC group. The bone formation rate (BFR) was significantly reduced in p53+/+ + TS but not in p53-/- + TS mice. Unloading significantly increased trabecular osteoclast number (Oc.N) and surface in p53+/+ + TS mice compared with the p53+/+ + GC group, but the difference was not significant between p53-/- + TS and p53-/- + GC mice. In bone marrow cell culture, the numbers of alkaline phosphatase-positive (ALP+) colony-forming units fibroblastic (CFU-f) and mineralized nodules were significantly reduced in p53+/+ + TS, but not p53-/- + TS mice. [3H]thymidine incorporation into bone marrow cells was higher in p53-/- mice than in p53+/+ mice, independent of mechanical loading or unloading. Flow cytometric cell cycle analysis revealed that unloading significantly increased the percentage of hypoploid bone marrow cells in p53+/+ mice relative to that in p53+/+ + GC mice, but there was no significant difference in ploidy between p53-/- + TS and p53-/- + GC mice. Expression levels of p53 and p21 mRNAs were enhanced after TS in bone marrow cells from p53+/+ mice. Our data show that trabecular bone mass and bone formation were preserved after tail-suspension in p53-/- mice, closely associated with ALP+ CFU-f and mineralized nodule formation in marrow cultures obtained from tibias of p53-/- mice. We speculate that bone loss due to mechanical unloading may be related to facilitation of intracellular p53-p21 signaling.