The conformation and activity of pRb, the product of the retinoblastoma susceptibility gene, is dependent on the phosphorylation status of one or more of its 16 potential cyclin-dependent kinase (cdk) sites. However, it is not clear whether the phosphorylation status of one or more of these sites contributes to the determination of the various conformations and activity of pRb. Moreover, whether and how the conformation of pRb may regulate the phosphorylation of the cdk sites is also unclear. In the process of analyzing the function and regulation of pRb, we uncovered the existence of an unusual structural motif, m89 (amino acids 880-900), the mutation of which confers upon pRb a hypophosphorylated conformation. Mutation of this structural domain activates, rather than inactivates, the growth suppressor function of pRb. In order to understand the effect of the mutation of m89 on the phosphorylation of cdk sites, we identified all the cdk sites (Thr-356, Ser-807/Ser-811, and Thr821) the phosphorylation of which drastically modify the conformation of pRb. Mutation of each of these four sites alone or in combinations results in the different conformations of pRb, the migration pattern of which, on SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, resembles various in vivo hypophosphorylated forms. Each of these hypophosphorylated forms of pRb has enhanced growth suppressing activity relative to the wild type. Our data revealed that the m89 structural motif controls the exposure of the cdk sites Ser-807/Ser-811 in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, the m89 mutant has enhanced growth suppressing activity, similar to a mutant with alanine substitutions at Ser-807/Ser-811. Our recent finding, that the m89 region is part of a structural domain, p5, conserved antigenically and functionally between pRb and p53, suggests that the evolutionarily conserved p5 domain may play a role in the coordinated regulation of the activity of these two tumor suppressors, under certain growth conditions.