The tumor suppressor gene p53 plays a critical role in safeguarding the integrity of the genome in mammalian cells. It acts as a sequence-specific transcription factor. Once p53 is activated by a variety of cellular stresses, it transactivates downstream target genes and regulates the cell cycle and apoptosis. However, little is known about the functions of the p53 pathway in prawns in response to hypoxia. In this study, the cDNA of p53 from the oriental river prawn, Macrobrachium nipponense, (Mnp53) was cloned using a combination of homology cloning and rapid amplification of cDNA ends. The full-length cDNA of Mnp53 has 2130 bp, including an open reading frame of 1125 bp that encodes a polypeptide of 374 amino acids with a predicted molecular weight of 41.9 kDa and a theoretical isoelectric point of 6.9. Quantitative real-time (qRT)-PCR assays revealed that Mnp53 was ubiquitously expressed in all examined tissues, but at high levels in the hepatopancreas. In addition, we studied respiratory bursts and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in the hepatopancreas of M. nipponense. Our results suggest that oxidative stress occurred in prawns in response to hypoxia and that apoptosis was associated with an increase in caspase-3 mRNA expression. qRT-PCR and western blot results confirmed that hypoxic stress induced the upregulation of Mnp53 at mRNA and protein levels. Furthermore, immunohistochemistry showed remarkable changes in immunopositive staining after the same hypoxic treatment. These results suggest that hypoxia-induced oxidative stress may cause apoptosis and cooperatively stimulate the expression of Mnp53.