Induction of apoptosis is one of the central activities by which p53 exerts its tumor-suppressing function. Aside from its primary function as a transcription factor, it can promote apoptosis independent of transcription. Recent studies have started to define the mechanisms of non-transcriptional pro-apoptotic p53 activities operating within the intrinsic mitochondria-mediated pathway of apoptosis. So far, two different mechanisms have been described, each of which was assigned to a specific localization of the p53 protein, either in the cytosol or directly at the mitochondria. Although mechanistically different, both transcription-independent modes of apoptosis induction converge, as they both initiate permeabilization of the outer mitochondrial membrane via activation of the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members Bax or Bak.