A single dose of Mpl ligand (Mpl-L) given immediately after lethal DNA-damaging regimens prevents the death of mice. However, the mechanism of this myeloprotection is unknown. The induction of p53-dependent apoptosis in response to DNA damage signals suggests that immediate administration of Mpl-L may inhibit p53-dependent apoptosis. This hypothesis was tested by administering a single injection of pegylated murine Megakaryocyte Growth and Development Factor (PEG-rmMGDF, a truncated recombinant Mpl-L) to p53(-/-) and wild-type mice immediately after carboplatin (80 mg/kg) and 7.5 Gy total body gamma-irradiation. PEG-rmMGDF was required to prevent the death of wild-type mice, whereas p53(-/-) mice survived with or without the exogenous cytokine. The degree of platelet depression and subsequent recovery was comparable in p53(-/-) mice to wild-type animals given PEG-rmMGDF. Hence, either Mpl-L administration or p53-deficiency protected multipotent hematopoietic progenitors and committed megakaryocyte precursors. The myelosuppressive regimen induced expression of p53 and the p53 target, p21(Cipl) in wild-type bone marrow, indicating that Mpl-L acts downstream of p53 to prevent apoptosis. Constitutive expression of the proapoptotic protein Bax, was not further increased. Bax(-/-) mice survived the lethal regimen only when given PEG-rmMGDF; however, these Bax(-/-) mice showed more rapid hematopoietic recovery than did identically-treated wild-type mice. Therefore, administration of Mpl-L immediately after myelosuppressive chemotherapy or preparatory regimens for autologous bone marrow transplantation should prevent p53-dependent apoptosis, decrease myelosuppression, and reduce the need for platelet transfusions.