Wild-type p53 represses Alu template activity in vitro and in vivo. However, upstream activating sequence elements from both the 7SL RNA gene and an Alu source gene relieve p53-mediated repression. p53 also represses the template activity of the U6 RNA gene both in vitro and in vivo but has no effect on in vitro transcription of genes encoding 5S RNA, 7SL RNA, adenovirus VAI RNA, and tRNA. The N-terminal activation domain of p53, which binds TATA-binding protein (TBP), is sufficient for repressing Alu transcription in vitro, and mutation of positions 22 and 23 in this region impairs p53-mediated repression of an Alu template both in vitro and in vivo. p53's N-terminal domain binds TFIIIB, presumably through its known interaction with TBP, and mutation of positions 22 and 23 interferes with TFIIIB binding. These results extend p53's transcriptional role to RNA polymerase III-directed templates and identify an additional level of Alu transcriptional regulation.