MDM2 is a key ubiquitin E3 ligase for p53 and its activity is critically regulated by a set of modulators, including ARF, p300, YY1 and recently by gankyrin, an oncoprotein frequently overexpressed in human heptocellular carcinomas. We have previously shown that MDM2 binds to and promotes retinoblastoma protein (Rb) degradation. Here we show that Rb inhibits MDM2 E3 ligase activity resulting in stabilization of p53. In addition, we demonstrated that Rb inhibits MDM2-mediated p53 ubiquitination in a gankyrin-dependent manner and the Rb-gankyrin interaction is critical for Rb-induced p53 stabilization. Furthermore, acute ablation of Rb facilitates gankyrin-mediated p53 destabilization, and desensitizes cancer cells for chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. These results indicate that Rb antagonizes gankyrin to inhibit MDM2-mediate p53 ubiquitination in cancer cells and suggest that the status of both p53 and Rb is important for efficacy of cancer chemotherapy. © 2008 Nature Publishing Group All rights reserved.