Mutations of the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene are the most commonly detected alterations in familial breast and ovarian cancer. Although BRCA1 is required for normal mouse development, the molecular basis for its tumor suppressive function remains poorly understood. We show here that BRCA1 increases p53-dependent transcription from the p21WAF1/CIP1 and bax promoters. We also show that BRCA1 and p53 proteins interact both in vitro and in vivo. The interacting regions map, in vitro, to aa 224-500 of BRCA1 and the C-terminal domain of p53. Tumor-derived transactivation-deficient BRCA1 mutants are defective in co-activation of p53-dependent transcription and a truncation mutant of BRCA1 that retains the p53-interacting region acts as a dominant inhibitor of p53-dependent transcription. BRCA1 and p53 cooperatively induce apoptosis of cancer cells. The results indicate that BRCA1 and p53 may coordinately regulate gene expression in their role as tumor suppressors.