Previous reports have shown that cells infected with promastigotes of some Leishmania species are resistant to the induction of apoptosis. This would suggest that either parasites elaborate factors that block signalling from apoptosis inducers or that parasites engage endogenous host signalling pathways that block apoptosis. To investigate the latter scenario, we determined whether Leishmania infection results in the activation of signalling pathways that have been shown to mediate resistance to apoptosis in other infection models. First, we showed that infection with the promastigote form of Leishmania major, Leishmania pifanoi and Leishmania amazonensis activates signalling through p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), NFkappaB and PI3K/Akt. Then we found that inhibition of signalling through the PI3K/Akt pathway with LY294002 and Akt IV inhibitor reversed resistance of infected bone marrow-derived macrophages and RAW 264.7 macrophages to potent inducers of apoptosis. Moreover, reduction of Akt levels with small interfering RNAs to Akt resulted in the inability of infected macrophages to resist apoptosis. Further evidence of the role of PI3K/Akt signalling in the promotion of cell survival by infected cells was obtained with the finding that Bad, which is a substrate of Akt, becomes phosphorylated during the course of infection. In contrast to the observations with PI3K/Akt signalling, inhibition of p38 MAPK signalling with SB202190 or NFkappaB signalling with wedelolactone had limited effect on parasite-induced resistance to apoptosis. We conclude that Leishmania promastigotes engage PI3K/Akt signalling, which confers to the infected cell, the capacity to resist death from activators of apoptosis.