Oligonucleotide microarrays were employed to quantitate mRNA levels from a large number of genes regulated by the p53 transcription factor. Responses to DNA damage and to zinc-inducible p53 were compared for their transcription patterns in cell culture. A cluster analysis of these data demonstrates that genes induced by gamma radiation, UV radiation, and the zinc-induced p53 form distinct sets and subsets with a few genes in common to all these treatments. Cell type- or cell line-specific p53 responses were detected. When p53 proteins were induced with zinc, the kinetics of induction or repression of mRNAs from p53-responsive genes fell into eight distinct classes, five different kinetics of induction, and three different kinetics of repression. In addition, low levels of p53 in a cell induced or repressed only a subset of genes observed at higher p53 levels. The results of this study demonstrate that the nature of the p53 response in diverse mRNA species depends on the levels of p53 protein in a cell, the type of inducing agent or event, and the cell type employed. Of 6000 genes examined for p53 regulatory responses, 107 induced and 54 repressed genes fell into categories of apoptosis and growth arrest, cytoskeletal functions, growth factors and their inhibitors, extracellular matrix, and adhesion genes.