The tumour-suppressor p53 is a short-lived protein that is maintained at low, often undetectable, levels in normal cells. Stabilization of the protein in response to an activating signal, such as DNA damage, results in a rapid rise in p53 levels and subsequent inhibition of cell growth. Tight regulation of p53 function is critical for normal cell growth and development, and one mechanism by which p53 function is controlled is through interaction with the Mdm2 protein. Mdm2 inhibits p53 cell-cycle arrest and apoptic functions and we show here that interaction with Mdm2 can also result in a large reduction in p53 protein levels through enhanced proteasome-dependent degradation. Endogenous levels of Mdm2 are sufficient to regulate p53 stability, and overexpression of Mdm2 can reduce the amount of endogenous p53. Because mdm2 is transcriptionally activated by p53, this degradative pathway may contribute to the maintenance of low p53 concentrations in normal cells. Furthermore, mechanisms regulating the Mdm2-induced degradation of p53 may play a role in controlling the extent and duration of the p53 response.