The apoptotic function of N-α-tosyl- -phenylalanyl chloromethyl ketone (TPCK) was investigated in cultured human colorectal carcinoma cells (HCT116). TPCK-induced apoptosis was shown to be p53-dependent in HCT116 cells during the early stage of incubation. The function of p53 was required for TPCK-induced activation of caspase-3 and caspase-7. TPCK promoted dephosphorylation of p53 on serine residues at 6, 9, 46, 376, and 378 in parallel with the activation of p53 transcriptional activity. HCT116 p53−/− cells expressing p53 mutant, in which serine residues at 6, 9, 46, 376, and 378 were replaced by aspartic acids, were resistant to TPCK-induced apoptosis suggesting the requirement of dephosphorylation of p53 on serine residues during TPCK-induced apoptosis.