Generation of energy in mitochondria is subjected to physiological regulation at many levels, and its malfunction may result in mitochondrial diseases. Mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with different environmental influences or certain genetic conditions, and can be artificially induced by inhibitors acting at different steps of the mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC). We found that a short-term (5 h) inhibition of ETC complex III with myxothiazol results in the phosphorylation of translation initiation factor eIF2α and upregulation of mRNA for the activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) and several ATF4-regulated genes. The changes are characteristic for the adaptive integrated stress response (ISR), which is known to be triggered by unfolded proteins, nutrient and metabolic deficiency, and mitochondrial dysfunctions. However, after a prolonged incubation with myxothiazol (13-17 h), levels of ATF4 mRNA and ATF4-regulated transcripts were found substantially suppressed. The suppression was dependent on the p53 response, which is triggered by the impairment of the complex III-dependent de novo biosynthesis of pyrimidines by mitochondrial dihydroorotate dehydrogenase. The initial adaptive induction of ATF4/ISR acted to promote viability of cells by attenuating apoptosis. In contrast, the induction of p53 upon a sustained inhibition of ETC complex III produced a pro-apoptotic effect, which was additionally stimulated by the p53-mediated abrogation of the pro-survival activities of the ISR. Interestingly, a sustained inhibition of ETC complex I by piericidine did not induce the p53 response and stably maintained the pro-survival activation of ATF4/ISR. We conclude that a downregulation of mitochondrial ETC generally induces adaptive pro-survival responses, which are specifically abrogated by the suicidal p53 response triggered by the genetic risks of the pyrimidine nucleotide deficiency.