Photoreceptor cell-specific receptor (PNR/NR2E3) is an orphan nuclear receptor that plays a critical role in retinal development and photoreceptor maintenance. The disease-causing mutations in PNR have a pleiotropic effect resulting in varying retinal diseases. Recently, PNR has been implicated in control of cellular functions in cancer cells. PNR was reported to be a novel regulator of ER alpha expression in breast cancer cells, and high PNR expression correlates with favorable response to tamoxifen treatment. Moreover, PNR was shown to increase p53 stability in HeLa cells, implying that PNR may be a therapeutic target in this and other cancers that retain a wild type p53 gene. To facilitate further understanding of PNR functions in cancer, we characterized compound 11a, a synthetic, putative PNR agonist in several cell-based assays. Interestingly, we showed that 11a failed to activate PNR and its cytotoxicity was independent of PNR expression, excluding PNR as a mediator for 11a cytotoxicity. Systematic analyses of the cytotoxic effects of 11a in NCI-60 cell lines revealed a strong positive correlation of cytotoxicity with p53 status, i.e., p53 wild type cell lines were significantly more sensitive to 11a than p53 mutated or null cell lines. Furthermore, using HCT116 p53+/+ and p53-/- isogenic cell lines we revealed that the mechanism of 11a-induced cytotoxicity occurred through G(1)/S phase cell cycle arrest rather than apoptosis. In conclusion, we observed a correlation of 11a sensitivity with p53 status but not with PNR expression, suggesting that tumors expressing wild type p53 might be responsive to this compound.