Ribosomal proteins (RPs) play important roles in modulating the MDM2-p53 pathway. However, less is known about the upstream regulators of the RPs. Here, we identify SPIN1 (Spindlin 1) as a novel binding partner of human RPL5/uL18 that is important for this pathway. SPIN1 ablation activates p53, suppresses cell growth, reduces clonogenic ability, and induces apoptosis of human cancer cells. Mechanistically, SPIN1 sequesters uL18 in the nucleolus, preventing it from interacting with MDM2, and thereby alleviating uL18-mediated inhibition of MDM2 ubiquitin ligase activity toward p53. SPIN1 deficiency increases ribosome-free uL18 and uL5 (human RPL11), which are required for SPIN1 depletion-induced p53 activation. Analysis of cancer genomic databases suggests that SPIN1 is highly expressed in several human cancers, and its overexpression is positively correlated with poor prognosis in cancer patients. Altogether, our findings reveal that the oncogenic property of SPIN1 may be attributed to its negative regulation of uL18, leading to p53 inactivation.