p70S6 kinase is a multipotent kinase that phosphorylates substrates in response to extracellular stimuli. This kinase activity inhibits apoptosis, regulates cell size and controls translation. In the CNS, p70S6K also participates in synaptic plasticity. In this study, we report that leucine, a branched-chain amino acid, induces phosphorylation and activation of p70S6 kinase in cortical neurons. Leucine also induces phosphorylation of S6 protein, a substrate of p70S6K. These effects of leucine are completely inhibited by rapamycin, consistent with mammalian target of rapamycin mediating p70S6 phosphorylation. Finally, we demonstrate that the action of leucine on cortical neurons is mediated by the system L amino acid transporter. Neurons express components of system L amino acid transporter LAT1, LAT2, and CD98. Leucine uptake and its effect on p70S6 kinase are both inhibited by a specific inhibitor of system L amino acid transporter. We propose that leucine plays important roles in regulating signaling by p70S6 kinase by acting as an intercellular communicator in the CNS.