The phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase pathway is an important regulator of cell survival. In human alveolar macrophages, we found that LPS activates PI 3-kinase and its downstream effector, Akt. LPS exposure of alveolar macrophages also results in the generation of ceramide. Because ceramide exposure induces apoptosis in other cell types and the PI 3-kinase pathway is known to inhibit apoptosis, we determined the relationship between LPS-induced ceramide and PI 3-kinase activation in alveolar macrophages. We found that ceramide exposure activated PI 3-kinase and Akt. When we blocked LPS-induced ceramide with the inhibitor D609, we blocked LPS-induced PI 3-kinase and Akt activation. Evaluating cell survival after ceramide or LPS exposure, we found that blocking PI 3-kinase induced a significant increase in cell death. Because these effects of PI 3-kinase inhibition were more pronounced in ceramide- vs LPS-treated alveolar macrophages, we also evaluated NF-κB, which has also been linked to cell survival. We found that LPS, to a greater degree than ceramide, induced NF-κB translocation to the nucleus. As a composite, these studies suggest that the effects of ceramide exposure in alveolar macrophages may be very different from the effects described for other cell types. We believe that LPS induction of ceramide results in PI 3-kinase activation and represents a novel effector mechanism that promotes survival of human alveolar macrophages in the setting of pulmonary sepsis.