Abstract : PC12 cells are well characterized for their ability to differentiate into neuronal-like cells when challenged with nerve growth factor. It has been reported that the calpain and proteasome inhibitor N-acetyl-Leu-Leu-norleucinal (CI) is also able to induce neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells. In this study, we report that the inhibitor of proteasomal chymotrypsin-like activity, carbobenzoxy-Ile-Glu-(O-tert-butyl)-Ala-Leu-aldehyde (PSI), can also induce differentiation of PC12 cells. Induction of neurite outgrowth with PSI, CI, or its close analogue, carbobenzoxy-Leu-Leu-leucinal (MG132), was associated with stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK) activation. Neurite formation induced by protease inhibition was independent of mitogen-activated protein kinase/extracellular signal-regulated kinase, p38/reactivating kinase, or phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase activities. The exact mechanism by which protease inhibition activates SAPKs remains to be elucidated ; however, our results suggest that the SAPK signal transduction cascade may be an alternative and/or parallel pathway in the regulation of neuronal differentiation.