The effects of a novel immunosuppressive agent FTY720 on proliferation inhibition and apoptosis of acute leukemia cell lines HL-60 and U937, and the role of extracelluar regulated protein kinase (ERK) in the course of proliferation inhibition and apoptosis induced by FTY720 were studied. The proliferation inhibition rate of HL-60 and U937 cells by various concentrations of FTY720 was detected by MTT assay. Cell apoptosis was detected by DNA fragment analysis and flow cytometry. The phosphorylated ERK1/2 protein expression was observed by Western blotting. The change of intracellular distribution of ERK1/2 protein was identified by SP immunohisto-chemical staining. The results showed that FTY720 could inhibit the growth of HL-60 and U937 cells effectively in a dose-dependent manner. After incubation with FTY720 for 24 h, apoptosis was observed in HL-60 and U937 cells. The intracellular expression of phosphorylated ERK1/2 protein was also down-regulated and the distribution of ERK 1/2 protein in cell nuclear was reduced during FTY720-induced apoptosis. So, that FTY720 inhibited ERK1/2 phosphorylation might mediate the role of FTY720-induced apoptosis and proliferation inhibition of leukemia cells.