Many studies have indicated that differentiated cells inhibit drug-induced cytotoxicity but undifferentiated cells do not, though the mechanisms are unclear. Currently, HL-60 cells are induced to differentiate into macrophage-like cells with Phor-bol-12-myristate-13-acetate (TPA) treatment (TPA-differentiated cells). Our study shows that caspase-9/-3-mediated cytotoxicity can be induced in undifferentiated HL-60 cells but not in TPA-differentiated HL-60 cells. However, caspase-9/-3-mediated cytotoxicity can be induced in TPA-differentiated cells if they are pretreated with a protein kinase C (PKC) or a mitogen activated protein kinase (MEK) inhibitor. Taken together, this study demonstrates that TPA-differentiated HL-60 cells inhibit caspases-9/-3-mediated cytotoxicity through the PKC and MEK signaling pathways. (C) 2008 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.