A plasmid carrying the 5' flanking region of the mouse proliferating-cell-nuclear-antigen (PCNA) gene or DNA polymerase beta gene was fused with the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) gene, then cotransfected into mouse N18TG2 cells with the expression plasmid for the p53 gene. Expression of the wild-type p53 repressed the CAT expression directed by the PCNA gene promoter, while it had little effect on the DNA polymerase beta gene promoter. RNase protection analysis revealed that the repression of the PCNA gene promoter by p53 was at the transcription step. Analysis with various deletion mutants in the PCNA gene promoter revealed that a specific sequence is not required for the repression, suggesting that p53 represses the PCNA gene promoter by interacting with some components of the basic transcription machinery. By analysis with various deletion mutants in the DNA polymerase beta gene promoter, we identified the unique 10-bp palindromic sequence (-24 to -15), in the presence of which p53 was not able to repress the promoter activity. This sequence conferred resistance to p53 repression onto the PCNA gene promoter, when it was placed 21-bp upstream from the transcription-initiation site.