Staurosporine induced apoptosis of RAW 264.7 cells, a mouse macrophage-like cell line, as determined by DNA fragmentation, the increase of annexin V-stained cells, and the cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP), a substrate of caspase. Analysis of the increase in the percentage of sub-G(1) cells revealed that the DNA fragmentation occurred in a time- and concentration-dependent manner at 0.021-2.1 microM of staurosporine. Staurosporine induced phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) but suppressed spontaneous phosphorylation of p44/42 MAPK. The p38 MAPK inhibitor SB203580, the MAPK/extracellular signal-regulated kinase kinase inhibitor PD98059 and the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) inhibitor LY294002 potentiated the staurosporine-induced PARP cleavage and DNA fragmentation. The protein kinase A (PKA) inhibitor H-89 potentiated the staurosporine-induced DNA fragmentation without potentiating the PARP cleavage. In contrast, the protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor Ro-31-8425 suppressed the PARP cleavage and DNA fragmentation. These findings suggested that staurosporine induces apoptosis via the caspase cascade in RAW 264.7 cells. The staurosporine-induced apoptosis is positively regulated by PKC, negatively regulated by p38 MAPK, p44/42 MAPK and PI3K via the caspase cascade, and negatively regulated by PKA without regulation of caspase activation.