The heterodimeric nuclear factor (NF) 90/NF45 complex (NF90/NF45) binds nucleic acids and is a multifunctional regulator of gene expression. Here we report that depletion of NF90/NF45 restores the expression of the p53 and p21 proteins in cervical carcinoma cells infected with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs). Knockdown of either NF90 or NF45 by RNA interference led to greatly elevated levels of p53 and p21 proteins in HPV-derived HeLa and SiHa cells but not in other cancerous or normal cell lines. In HeLa cells, p21 messenger-RNA (mRNA) increased concomitantly but the level of p53 mRNA was unaffected. RNA interference directed against p53 prevented the induction of both proteins. These results indicated that the upregulation of p21 is due to p53-dependent transcription, whereas p53 is regulated post-transcriptionally. Proteasome-mediated turnover of p53 is accelerated by the HPV E6 and cellular E6AP proteins. We therefore examined the hypothesis that this pathway is regulated by NF90/NF45. Indeed, depletion of NF90 attenuated the expression of E6 RNA and inhibited transcription from the HPV early promoter, revealing a new role for NF90/NF45 in HPV gene expression. The transcription inhibition was largely independent of the reduction of P-TEFb (positive transcription elongation factor b) levels caused by NF90 depletion. Consistent with p53 derepression, NF90/NF45-depleted HeLa cells displayed elevated poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) cleavage and susceptibility to camptothecin-induced apoptosis. We conclude that high-risk strains of HPV utilize the cellular NF90/NF45 complex for viral E6 expression in infected cervical carcinoma cell lines. Interference with NF90/NF45 function could assist in controlling cervical carcinoma.