Through a differential screening technique, we have identified a cDNA clone with differential expression in normal versus tumor cells. This clone, designated rit42 (reduced in tumor, 42 kDa), was previously isolated as a homocysteine-inducible gene in human endothelial cells (RTP), and the same or a highly related androgen-responsive gene in mouse has also been identified. Both Northern blot analysis and in situ hybridization demonstrated a significantly diminished expression in tumor cells, including those derived from breast and prostate when compared with normal cells. It was shown that RTP/rit42 mRNA cycles with cell division, peaking at G1 and G2-M, with lower expression in S phase. The biphasic expression of RTP/rit42 mRNA was absent in tumor cells. Introduction of rit42 cDNA into human cancer cells reduced cell growth both in vitro and in nude mice. Moreover, analysis of a tetracycline-regulated p53-inducible system in null-p53 cell lines showed that RTP/rit42 mRNA expression increased concomitantly with p53 expression and followed a similar time course. In addition, DNA-damaging agents induced RTP/rit42 expression in a p53-dependent manner but independent of a p53-mediated G1 arrest. Immunofluorescence analysis of a FLAG epitope-tagged RTP/rit42 protein revealed a cytoplasmic localization pattern with redistribution to the nucleus upon DNA damage. We have localized RTP/rit42 to human chromosome 8q24.3. Taken together, these results are consistent with a growth inhibitory role for RTP/rit42, and its down-regulation may contribute to the tumor malignant phenotype.