Human T cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is a complex human retrovirus which is the causative agent of adult T cell leukemia (ATL). ATL occurs in about 4% of carriers and develops after a long latent period. Although the precise mechanism of HTLV-1 oncogenesis remains unclear, the pathogenesis has been linked to the pleiotropic activity of the viral transcriptional activator protein Tax. Tax has been shown to regulate viral and cellular gene expression and to functionally interfere with proteins involved in cell-cycle progression and DNA repair. This review will focus on the role of Tax in p53 inhibition.