Using microarrays to analyze differential gene expression as a function of p53 status and radiation quality, we observed downregulation of a large set of histone genes in p53 wild-type TK6 cells 24 h after exposure to equitoxic doses of high-LET (1.67 Gy 1 GeV/amu 56Fe ions) or low-LET (2.5 Gy γ rays) radiation. Quantitative real-time PCR of specific subtypes of core (H2A, H2B, H3 and H4) and linker (H1) histones confirmed this result. DNA synthesis and histone gene expression are tightly coordinated during the S phase of the cell cycle, and both processes are regulated by cell cycle checkpoints in response to DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation. However, we observed similar repression of histone gene expression in both TK6 cells and their p53-null derivative NH32 after radiation exposure, although the histone gene expression was not decreased to the same extent in NH32 cells as it was in TK6 cells. We also found decreased histone gene expression that was dose- and time-dependent in the colon cancer cell line HCT116 and its p53-null derivative. These results show that both high- and low-LET radiation exposure negatively regulate histone gene expression in human lymphoblastoid and colon cancer cell lines independent of p53 status.