The stress-activated protein kinases (SAPKs), also known as c-Jun amino-terminal kinases (JNKs), are activated in response to diverse stimuli including DNA damage, heat shock, interleukin-1, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and Fas. Although all these inducers cause apoptosis, whether SAPK/JNK activation is required for apoptosis is controversial. In this study, we demonstrate that ionizing radiation (IR) and dexamethasone (Dex) induce apoptosis in multiple myeloma (MM) derived cell lines, as well as in patient cells. IR-induced apoptosis is associated with activation of SAPK/JNK and p38 kinase, in contrast to Dex-induced apoptosis, which is not associated with activation of stress kinases. Moreover, Dex-induced apoptosis is associated with a significant decrease in the activities of mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) and p70S6K, whereas IR-treatment does not alter the activity of these kinases. Both IR and Dex induce poly (ADP ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleavage, a signature event of apoptosis. Finally, interleukin-6 (IL-6) inhibits Dex-induced apoptosis, downregulation of MAP and p70S6K growth kinases and PARP cleavage; in contrast, IL-6 does not inhibit IR-induced apoptosis, activation of SAPK/JNK, and PARP cleavage. Taken together, our findings suggest that SAPK/JNK activation is not required for apoptosis in MM cells, and that there are at least two distinct apoptotic signaling pathways: (i) SAPK/JNK-associated, which is induced by IR and unaffected by IL-6; and (ii) SAPK/JNK-independent, which is induced by Dex, associated with downregulation of MAPK and p70S6K and inhibited by IL-6.