Heme oxygenase (HO)-1 is the inducible isoform of the rate-limiting enzyme of heme degradation and modulates the inflammatory immune response. Because HO-1 is up-regulated by NAD(P)H oxidase activators such as lipopolysaccharide and 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate in monocytic cells, we investigated the gene regulation of HO-1 by the chemical NAD(P)H oxidase inhibitor 4-(2-aminoethyl) benzenesulfonyl fluoride (AEBSF). Unexpectedly, AEBSF induced endogenous gene expression and promoter activity of HO-1 in cell cultures of human and mouse monocytes. Inhibition of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PKB) pathway by pharmacological inhibitors and cotransfection of an expression vector for a dominant negative mutant of PKB reduced the AEBSF-dependent induction of HO-1 gene transcription. Accordingly, overexpressed constitutively active PKB markedly up-regulated HO-1 promoter activity. AEBSF activated the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) JNK and p38. Inhibition of p38alpha and p38beta, but not that of JNK or p38gamma and p38delta, prevented the induction of HO-1 gene expression by AEBSF. p38 was stimulated by AEBSF in a PKB-dependent manner as demonstrated by a luciferase assay with a Gal4-CHOP fusion protein. Finally, AEBSF- and PKB-dependent induction of HO-1 promoter activity was reduced by simultaneous mutation of an E-box motif (-47/-42) and a cAMP response element/AP-1 element (-664/-657) of the proximal HO-1 gene promoter. Overexpression of the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor USF2 and coactivator p300 enhanced the AEBSF-dependent response of the HO-1 promoter. The data suggest that the transcriptional induction of HO-1 gene expression by AEBSF is mediated via activation of a PKB, p38 MAPK signaling pathway.