Recent studies indicated that the RIG1 (RARRES3/TIG3) plays an important role in cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. However, the regulatory mechanism of RIG1 gene expression has not been clearly elucidated. In this study, we identified a functional p53 response element (p53RE) in the RIG1 gene promoter. Transfection studies revealed that the RIG1 promoter activity was greatly enhanced by wild type but not mutated p53 protein. Sequence specific mutation of the p53RE abolished p53-mediated transactivation. Specific binding of p53 protein to the rig-p53RE was demonstrated using electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay. Further studies confirmed that the expression of RIG1 mRNA and protein is enhanced through increased p53 protein in HepG2 or in H24-H1299 cells. In conclusion, our results indicated that RIG1 gene is a downstream target of p53 in cancer cell lines. (C) 2012 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B. V. All rights reserved.