Programmed cell death-4 (PDCD4) is a recently discovered tumor suppressor protein that inhibits protein synthesis by suppression of translation initiation. We investigated the role and the regulation of PDCD4 in the terminal differentiation of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells. Expression of PDCD4 was markedly up-regulated during all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA)-induced granulocytic differentiation in NB4 and HL60 AML cell lines and in primary human promyelocytic leukemia (AML-M3) and CD34(+) hematopoietic progenitor cells but not in differentiation-resistant NB4.R1 and HL60R cells. Induction of PDCD4 expression was associated with nuclear translocation of PDCD4 in NB4 cells undergoing granulocytic differentiation but not in NB4.R1 cells. Other granulocytic differentiation inducers such as DMSO and arsenic trioxide also induced PDCD4 expression in NB4 cells. In contrast, PDCD4 was not up-regulated during monocytic/macrophagic differentiation induced by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 or 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate in NB4 cells or by ATRA in THP1 myelomonoblastic cells. Knockdown of PDCD4 by RNA interference (siRNA) inhibited ATRA-induced granulocytic differentiation and reduced expression of key proteins known to be regulated by ATRA, including p27(Kip1) and DAP5/p97, and induced c-myc and Wilms' tumor 1, but did not alter expression of c-jun, p21(Waf1/Cip1), and tissue transglutaminase (TG2). Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway was found to regulate PDCD4 expression because inhibition of PI3K by LY294002 and wortmannin or of mTOR by rapamycin induced PDCD4 protein and mRNA expression. In conclusion, our data suggest that PDCD4 expression contributes to ATRA-induced granulocytic but not monocytic/macrophagic differentiation. The PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway constitutively represses PDCD4 expression in AML, and ATRA induces PDCD4 through inhibition of this pathway.