In the present study, we have investigated mechanisms of transcriptional co-operation between proteins that belong to the tumour suppressor p53 and Sp (specificity protein) families of transcription factors. Such mechanisms may play an important role in the regulation of genes containing binding sites for both classes of transcription factors in their promoters. Two of these genes were analysed in the present study: the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21Cip1 gene and the PUMA (p53-up-regulated mediator of apoptosis) gene. We found that Sp1 and Sp3, but not Sp2, co-operate functionally with p53, p73 and p63 for the synergistic transactivation of the p21Cip1 promoter in Drosophila Schneider SL2 cells that lack endogenous Sp factors. We also found that Sp1 strongly transactivated the PUMA promoter synergistically with p53, whereas deletion of the Sp1-binding sites abolished the transactivation by p53. Using p53 mutant forms in GST (glutathione S-transferase) pull-down assays, we found that the C-terminal 101 amino acids of p53, which include the oligomerization and regulatory domains of the protein, are required for the physical interactions with Sp1 and Sp3, and that deletion of this region abolished transactivation of the p21Cip1 promoter. Utilizing truncated forms of Sp1, we established that p53 interacted with the two transactivation domains A and B, as well as the DNA-binding domain. Our findings suggest that Sp factors are essential for the cellular responses to p53 activation by genotoxic stress. Understanding in detail how members of the p53 and Sp families of transcription factors interact and work together in the p53-mediated cellular responses may open new horizons in cancer chemotherapy.