Cisplatin, a widely used chemotherapy drug, induces acute kidney injury, which limits its use and efficacy in cancer treatment. However, the molecular mechanism of cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity is currently unclear. Using pharmacological and gene knockout models, we now demonstrate a pathological role for p53 in cisplatin nephrotoxicity. In C57BL/6 mice, cisplatin treatment induced p53 phosphorylation and protein accumulation, which was accompanied by the development of acute kidney injury. p53 was induced in both proximal and distal tubular cells and partially colocalized with apoptosis. Pifithrin-alpha, a pharmacological inhibitor of p53, suppressed p53 activation and ameliorated kidney injury during cisplatin treatment. Moreover, cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity was abrogated in p53-deficient mice. Compared with wild-type animals, p53-deficient mice showed a better renal function, less tissue damage, and fewer apoptotic cells. In addition, cisplatin induced less apoptosis in proximal tubular cells isolated from p53-deficient mice than the cells from wild-type animals. Together these results suggest the involvement of p53 in cisplatin-induced renal cell apoptosis and nephrotoxicity.