The p53-null human lung cancer cell line H1299 was used in order to generate clones with ecdysone-inducible p53 as well as ecdysone-inducible p21waf1. Induced expression of p53 resulted in irreversible cell growth arrest with characteristics of replicative senescence, suggesting that p53 can prevent immortalization by activating a senescence program. The effect of induced p53 and p21waf1 expression on the cytotoxic action of the anti-cancer drugs etoposide and cisplatin was also analysed. Whereas p21waf1 overexpression conferred increased resistance to killing by either drug, p53 overexpression enhanced the cytotoxic effect of cisplatin but protected against etoposide cytotoxicity. These results imply that the impact of p53 on susceptibility to chemotherapy may depend greatly on the particular drug and type of DNA damage. Moreover, these data demonstrate the importance of using isogenic cell lines to address this issue.