The tumor suppressor protein p53 plays a key role in maintaining the genomic stability of mammalian cells and preventing malignant transformation. In this study, we investigated the intracellular diffusion of a p53-GFP fusion protein using confocal fluorescence recovery after photobleaching. We show that the diffusion of p53-GFP within the nucleus is well described by a mathematical model for diffusion of particles that bind temporarily to a spatially homogeneous immobile structure with binding and release rates k1 and k2, respectively. The diffusion constant of p53-GFP was estimated to be Dp53-GFP=15.4 microm2 s-1, significantly slower than that of GFP alone, DGFP=41.6 microm2 s-1. The reaction rates of the binding and unbinding of p53-GFP were estimated as k1=0.3 s-1 and k2=0.4 s-1, respectively, values suggestive of nonspecific binding. Consistent with this finding, the diffusional mobilities of tumor-derived sequence-specific DNA binding mutants of p53 were indistinguishable from that of the wild-type protein. These data are consistent with a model in which, under steady-state conditions, p53 is latent and continuously scans DNA, requiring activation for sequence-specific DNA binding.