The p53 tumour suppressor protein protects cells from tumorigenic alterations by inducing either cell growth arrest or apoptosis. In the present study, we investigated the role of endogenous p53 expressed in rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts which show transformed-appearing phenotypes. Type B synovial cells (fibroblast-like synovial cells) were exposed to a proteasome inhibitor, carbobenzoxyl-leucinyl-leucinyl-leucinal (MG-132). During this process, the expressions of p53 and p21 were examined by Western blot. Cell cycle analysis of the synovial cells was determined by DNA staining using propidium iodide (PI). Inhibition of proteasome resulted in the accumulation of p53 which was followed by an increase in the amount of a cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)-inhibitor, p21. As a consequence, the retinoblastoma gene product, Rb, remained in the hypophosphorylated state, thus preventing PDGF-stimulated synovial cells from progressing into S-phase. This study shows that endogenous p53, which is inducible in rheumatoid synovial cells, is functionally active based on the findings that its expression blocks the G1/S transition by inhibiting the CDK-mediated phosphorylation of Rb via p21 induction. Thus the induction of p53 using proteasome inhibitor may provide a new approach in the treatment of RA.