The tumor suppressor p53 has been proposed to bind target promoters upon genotoxic stress. However, recent evidence shows that p53 occupies some target promoters without such stress, suggesting that a negative regulator might render p53 transcriptionally inactive on these promoters. Here we show that calcineurin binding protein 1 (Cabin1) is a negative regulator of p53. Downregulation of Cabin1 induces activation of a subset of p53 target genes. Cabin1 physically interacts with p53 on these target promoters and represses p53 transcriptional activity in the absence of genotoxic stress, by regulating histone modification and p53 acetylation marks. Knockdown of Cabin1 retards cell growth and promotes cell death after DNA damage in a p53-dependent manner. Thus, Cabin1 inhibits p53 function on chromatin in the quiescent state; the presence of inactive p53 on some promoters might allow a prompt response upon DNA damage.