The H3K9me3 repressive histone conformation of p53 target promoters is abrogated in response to p53 activation by MDM2-mediated SUV39H1 degradation. Here, we present evidence that the USP7 deubiquitinase protects SUV39H1 from MDM2-mediated ubiquitination in the absence of p53 stimulus. USP7 occupies p53 target promoters in unstressed conditions, a process that is abrogated with p53 activation associated with loss of the H3K9me3 mark on these same promoters. Mechanistically, USP7 forms a trimeric complex with MDM2 and SUV39H1, independent of DNA, and modulates MDM2-dependent SUV39H1 ubiquitination. Furthermore, we show that this protective function of USP7 on SUV39H1 is independent of p53. Finally, USP7 blocking cooperates with p53 in inducing apoptosis by enhancing p53 promoter occupancy and dependent transactivation of target genes. These results uncover a layer of the p53 transcriptional program mediated by USP7, which restrains relaxation of local chromatin conformation at p53 target promoters.