The enteropathogen Shigella flexneri invades epithelial cells, leading to inflammation and tissue destruction. We report that Shigella infection of epithelial cells induces an early genotoxic stress, but the resulting p53 response and cell death are impaired due to the bacterium's ability to promote p53 degradation, mainly through calpain protease activation. Calpain activation is promoted by the Shigella virulence effector VirA and dependent on calcium flux and the depletion of the endogenous calpain inhibitor calpastatin. Further, although VirA-induced calpain activity is critical for regulating cytoskeletal events driving bacterial uptake, calpain activation ultimately leads to necrotic cell death, thereby restricting Shigella intracellular growth. Therefore, calpains work at multiple steps in regulating Shigella pathogenesis by disrupting the p53-dependent DNA repair response early during infection and regulating both formation and ultimate death of the Shigella epithelial replicative niche. Copyright Â© 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.