The tumour suppressor p53 is important in the cell decision to either arrest cell cycle progression or induce apoptosis in response to a variety of stimuli. p53 post-translational modifications and association with other proteins have been implicated in the regulation of its stability and transcriptional activities. Here we report that, on DNA damage, p53 interacts with Pin1, a peptidyl-prolyl isomerase, which regulates the function of many proteins involved in cell cycle control and apoptosis. The interaction is strictly dependent on p53 phosphorylation, and requires Ser 33, Thr 81 and Ser 315. On binding, Pin1 generates conformational changes in p53, enhancing its transactivation activity. Stabilization of p53 is impaired in UV-treated Pin1(-/-) cells owing to its inability to efficiently dissociate from Mdm2. As a consequence, a reduced p53-dependent response was detected in Pin1(-/-) cells, and this correlates with a diminished transcriptional activation of some p53-regulated genes. Our results suggest that, following stress-induced phosphorylation, p53 needs to form a complex with Pin1 and to undergo a conformational change to fulfil its biological roles.