MDM2 is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that binds the N-terminus of p53 and promotes its ubiquitin-dependent degradation. Elevated levels of MDM2 due to overexpression or gene amplification can contribute to tumor development by suppressing p53 activity. Since MDM2 is an oncogene, we explored the possibility that other genetic lesions, namely missense mutations, might alter its activities. We selected mutations in MDM2 that reside in one of the 4 key regions of the protein: p53 binding domain, acidic domain, zinc finger domain, and the RING domain. Unexpectedly, we observed that individual mutations in several of these domains compromised the ability of MDM2 to degrade p53. Mutations in the N-terminal p53 binding domain prevented the formation of a p53-MDM2 complex, thereby protecting p53 from degradation. Additionally, as would be predicted, several cancer-associated mutations in the RING finger domain disrupted the ubiquitin ligase activity of MDM2 and prevented p53 degradation. Interestingly, we observed that amino acid substitutions at the same codon differentially affected MDM2 activity. Our data reveal that mutations in this oncogene can have the paradoxical effect of suppressing its activity. Further understanding of how these mutations perturb MDM2 function may yield novel approaches to inhibiting its activity.