Apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (ASK1) is a ubiquitously expressed mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase that activates the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling cascades. We report here that expression of constitutively active ASK1 (ASK1DeltaN) induces neurite outgrowth in the rat pheochromocytoma cell line PC12. We found that p38 and to a lesser extent JNK, but not ERK, were activated by the expression of ASK1DeltaN in PC12 cells. ASK1DeltaN-induced neurite outgrowth was strongly inhibited by treatment with the p38 inhibitor SB203580 but not with the MEK inhibitors, suggesting that activation of p38, rather than of ERK, is required for the neurite-inducing activity of ASK1 in PC12 cells. We also observed that ASK1DeltaN induced expression of several neuron-specific proteins and phosphorylation of neurofilament proteins, confirming that PC12 cells differentiated into mature neuronal cells by ASK1. Moreover, ASK1DeltaN-expressing PC12 cells survived in serum-starved condition. ASK1 thus appears to mediate signals leading to both differentiation and survival of PC12 cells. Together with previous reports indicating that ASK1 functions as a pro-apoptotic signaling intermediate, these results suggest that ASK1 has a broad range of biological activities depending on cell types and/or cellular context.