We have shown earlier that platelet-activating factor (PAF) causes apoptosis in enterocytes via a mechanism that involves Bax translocation to mitochondria, followed by caspase activation and DNA fragmentation. Herein we report that, in rat small intestinal epithelial cells (IEC-6), these downstream apoptotic effects are mediated by a PAF-induced inhibition of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase)/protein kinase B (Akt) signaling pathway. Treatment with PAF results in rapid dephosphorylation of Akt, phosphoinositide-dependent kinase-1, and the YXXM p85 binding motif of several proteins and redistribution of Akt-pleckstrin homology domain-green fluorescent protein, i.e., an in vivo phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate sensor, from membrane to cytosol. The proapoptotic effects of PAF were inhibited by both n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids but not by a saturated fatty acid palmitate. Indomethacin, an inhibitor of prostaglandin biosynthesis, did not influence the baseline or PAF-induced apoptosis, but 2-bromopalmitate, an inhibitor of protein palmitoylation, inhibited all of the proapoptotic effects of PAF. Our data strongly suggest that an inhibition of the PI 3-kinase/Akt signaling pathway is the main mechanism of PAF-induced apoptosis in enterocytes and that polyunsaturated fatty acids block this mechanism very early in the signaling cascade independently of any effect on prostaglandin synthesis, and probably directly via an effect on protein palmitoylation. Copyright © 2008 the American Physiological Society.