Tissue transglutaminase (TGase) is involved in the regulation of several biological events including cellular differentiation and apoptosis. The expression and activation of TGase are up-regulated in response to retinoic acid (RA), leading to the protection of several cell lines against N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)retinamide (HPR)-induced apoptosis. The anti-apoptotic mechanisms of TGase are poorly understood at this time. We examined the interaction of TGase with the retinoblastoma (Rb) protein, a substrate of TGase that is also implicated in cell survival functions. In cells undergoing HPR-induced apoptosis, Rb is degraded. This degradation is blocked when cells are pretreated with RA, an important regulator of TGase. In vitro studies revealed that TGase protects Rb from caspase-induced degradation in a transamidation-dependent manner. Experiments performed with fibroblasts from Rb(-/-) mice further demonstrated that the presence of Rb was required for TGase to exhibit anti-apoptotic activity in response to RA treatment. Microinjection of Rb(-/-) cells with a transamidation-defective TGase mutant and Rb afforded no protection from HPR-induced apoptosis. Taken together, these findings suggest that the ability of TGase to modify Rb via transamidation underlies the ability of TGase to provide protection against apoptotic insults and to ensure that cells remain viable during differentiation.