We previously reported that FTY720 is an efficient inducer of apoptosis in lymphocytes and cultured cell lines. In the present study, HL-60 human promyerocytoma cells also induced apoptosis through in vitro treatment with the drug, demonstrating extensive DNA fragmentation 6 hr after incubation. The major target of FTY720 was the common signalling pathway of apoptosis, since a rapid (< 1 min) increase in the intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) was found in the cells treated with the drug. Calcium chelation in the culture medium with EGTA did not affect the [Ca2+]i mobilization. A phospholipase C inhibitor, U73122, inhibited the increase in [Ca2+]i as well as the fragmentation of the nuclear DNA, whereas U73343, a non-effective analogue of U73122, had little effect. These results suggest that FTY720-induced apoptosis is mediated through an activation of phospholipase C and the subsequent release of Ca2+ from intracellular calcium pools. In addition, the treatment of HL-60 with pertussis toxin (PTX) did not inhibit Ca2+ mobilization or apoptosis, suggesting that the activation of phospholipase C is independent of PTX-sensitive G-proteins.