The process of cell division is highly ordered and regulated. Checkpoints exist to delay progression into the next cell cycle phase only when the previous step is fully completed. The ultimate goal is to guarantee that the two daughter cells inherit a complete and faithful copy of the genome. Checkpoints can become activated due to DNA damage, exogenous stress signals, defects during the replication of DNA, or failure of chromosomes to attach to the mitotic spindle. Abrogation of cell cycle checkpoints can result in death for a unicellular organism or uncontrolled proliferation and tumorigenesis in metazoans (Nyberg et al., 2002). The tumor suppressor p53 plays a critical role in each of these cell cycle checkpoints and is reviewed here. J. Cell. Physiol. 209: 13–20, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.