Physical and chemical agents can damage the genome. Part of the protective response to this damage is the increased expression of p53. p53, a transcription factor, controls the expression of genes, leading to cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Another protective mechanism is the proliferative response required to replace the damaged cells. This proliferation is likely to be signaled by growth factors. In this communication, we show that the transforming growth factor α (TGF-α) gene is a direct target for p53-mediated transcriptional activation. In a stable cell line containing an inducible p53 construct, p53 induction leads to a threefold accumulation of the native TGF-α mRNA. In cotransfection assays using a TGF-α promoter reporter construct, we show that expression of wild-type but not mutant p53 increases transcriptional activity of the TGF-α promoter by approximately 2.5-fold. In vitro, wild-type p53 binds to a consensus binding site found in the proximal portion of the promoter, and this sequence is necessary for the p53 transcriptional response. Furthermore, this element confers p53 induction to the otherwise nonresponsive adenovirus major late promoter. In addition to these results, we found that the TGF-α promoter contains a nonconsensus but functional TATA box-binding protein-binding site approximately 30 bp upstream of the transcription start site. Although p53 can repress transcription from promoters containing a TATA box, the nonconsensus TGF-α TATA motif is resistant to this effect. On the basis of these results, we propose that p53 may play a dual role, which includes both the elimination of irreparably genetically damaged cells and the proliferative response necessary for their replacement, in the response to physical-chemical damage.