We demonstrated that enhancement of X-ray-induced apoptosis/rapid cell death by wortmannin accompanied by increased activation of JNK/SAPK in human leukemia MOLT-4 cells. Rapid cell death/apoptosis was determined either by the dye exclusion test or by the appearance of Annexin V-positive cells and cleaved PARP fragments. Enhancement was observed only at higher concentrations of wortmannin, i.e. 1 μM or more. At these high concentrations, both DNA-PK and ATM were inhibited. X-ray-induced phosphorylation of Ser 15 of p53/TP53, accumulation of both p53/TP53 and p21/ WAF1/CDKN1A, and phosphorylation of XRCC4 were all suppressed. The enhancement of apoptosis/rapid cell death by wortmannin was prevented by addition of caspase inhibitors, Z-VAD-FMK or Ac-DEVD-CHO, or by transfection and overexpression of mouse Bcl2, which is known as an anti-apoptosis protein. The requirement for a high concentration of wortmannin, i.e. 1 μM or more, indicates that inhibition of both DNA-PK and ATM was necessary for the enhanced apoptosis/rapid cell death. Phosphorylation of AKT/PKB was completely suppressed at a much lower concentration, i.e. 0.1 μM wortmannin, where no enhancement of X-ray-induced apoptosis/rapid cell death was observed. On the other hand, X-ray-induced phosphorylation of JNK and its kinase activity as well as apoptosis/rapid cell death were all significantly enhanced only at high concentrations of wortmannin, i.e. 1 μM or more. Furthermore, the extent of enhancement of both JNK phosphorylation and of apoptosis/rapid cell death by wortmannin was less in Rh1a cells, which are ceramide- and radiation-resistant variant cells compared to the parental MOLT-4 cells. Therefore, activation of the JNK pathway was considered important for the enhancement of X-ray-induced apoptosis/rapid cell death of MOLT-4 cells by wortmannin, because of the requirement for a higher concentration of wortmannin than that required for inhibition of AKT phosphorylation. The suppression of the AKT-dependent pathway by wortmannin may have some underlying role in activating the JNK pathway toward the enhancement of cell death in the current system.