Sodium butyrate (NaB) has been proposed as a potential anticancer agent. However, its mechanism of action is not totally elucidated. Here, we showed that NaB-induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis were associated with an increase of P21(waf1/cip1) in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. This increase was more important in the nuclei, as revealed by immunofluorescence analysis. Transient transfections of MCF-7 cells with p21 deficient for interaction with CDK, but not with p21 deficient for interaction with PCNA (p21PCNA-), abrogated NaB-induced cell cycle arrest. This indicated that cell cycle blockage involved the interaction of P21(waf1/cip1) with CDK. However, P21(waf1/cip1) was dispensable, since p21 antisense did not modify cell cycle arrest. On the other hand, NaB-induced apoptosis was abolished by p21 antisense or p21PCNA-. In addition, NaB decreased PCNA levels, but increased the association of PCNA with P21(waf1/cip1). These results suggested that NaB-induced apoptosis required P21(waf1/cip1) and its interaction with PCNA.