The nef gene product of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is important for the induction of AIDS, and key to its function is its ability to manipulate T-cell function by targeting cellular signal transduction proteins. We reported that Nef coprecipitates a multiprotein complex from cells which contains tumor suppressor protein p53. We now show that Nef interacts directly with p53. Binding assays showed that an N-terminal, 57-residue fragment of Nef (Nef 1-57) contains the p53-binding domain. Nef also interacted with p53 during HIV-1 infection in vitro. As p53 plays a critical role in the regulation of apoptosis, we hypothesized that Nef may alter this process. Nef inhibited UV light-induced, p53-dependent apoptosis in MOLT-4 cells, with Nef 1-57 being as effective as its full-length counterpart. The inhibition by Nef of p53 apoptotic function is most likely due its observed ability to decrease p53 protein half-life and, consequently, p53 DNA binding activity and transcriptional activation. These data show that HIV-1 Nef may augment HIV replication by prolonging the viability of infected cells by blocking p53-mediated apoptosis.