Aurora kinases are mitotic serine/threonine protein kinases and are attractive novel targets for anticancer therapy. Many small-molecule inhibitors of Aurora kinases are currently undergoing clinical trials. Aurora A kinase is essential for successful mitotic transition. MK8745 is a novel and selective small-molecule inhibitor of Aurora A kinase. MK8745 induced apoptotic cell death in a p53-dependent manner when tested in vitro in cell lines of multiple lineages. Cells expressing wild-type p53 showed a short delay in mitosis followed by cytokinesis, resulting in 2N cells along with apoptosis. However, cells lacking or with mutant p53 resulted in a prolonged arrest in mitosis followed by endoreduplication and polyploidy. Cytokinesis was completely inhibited in p53-deficient cells, as observed by the absence of 2N cell population. The induction of apoptosis in p53-proficient cells was associated with activation of caspase 3 and release of cytochrome c but was independent of p21. Exposure of p53 wild-type cells to MK8745 resulted in the induction of p53 phosphorylation (ser15) and an increase in p53 protein expression. p53-dependent apoptosis by MK8745 was further confirmed in HCT 116 p53(-/-) cells transfected with wild-type p53. Transient knockdown of Aurora A by specific siRNA recapitulated these p53- dependent effects, with greater percent induction of apoptosis in p53 wild-type cells. In conclusion, our studies show p53 as a determining factor for induction of apoptosis vs. polyploidy upon inhibition of Aurora A.