Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common malignancy of the kidney. Unfortunately, RCCs are highly refractory to conventional chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and even immunotherapy. Thus, novel therapeutic targets need to be sought for the successful treatment of RCCs. We now report that 6-anilino5,8- quinolinequinone (LY83583), an inhibitor of cyclic GMP production, induced growth arrest and apoptosis of the RCC cell line 786-0. It did not prove deleterious to normal renal epithelial cells, an important aspect of chemotherapy. To address the cellular mechanism(s), we used both genetic and pharmacological approaches. LY83583 induced a time- and dose-dependent increase in RCC apoptosis through dephosphorylation of mitogen- activated protein kinase kinase 1/2 and its downstream extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK) 1 and -2. In addition, we observed a decrease in Elk-1 phosphorylation and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) down-regulation. We were surprised that we failed to observe an increase in either c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase or p38 alpha and -beta mitogen-activated protein kinase activation. In contradiction, reintroduction of p38 delta by stable transfection or overexpression of p38 gamma dominant negative abrogated the apoptotic effect. Cell death was associated with a decrease and increase in Bcl-x(L) and Bax expression, respectively, as well as release of cytochrome c and translocation of apoptosis-inducing factor. These events were associated with an increase in reactive oxygen species formation. The antioxidant N-acetyl L-cysteine, however, opposed LY83583-mediated mitochondrial dysfunction, ERK1/2 inactivation, COX-2 down-regulation, and apoptosis. In conclusion, our results suggest that LY83583 may represent a novel therapeutic agent for the treatment of RCC, which remains highly refractory to antineoplastic agents. Our data provide a molecular basis for the anticancer activity of LY83583.