Staurosporine, a non-specific protein kinase inhibitor, has been shown to induce neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells, but the mechanism by which staurosporine induces neurite outgrowth is still obscure. In the present study, we investigated whether the activation of Rac1 was responsible for the neurite outgrowth triggered by staurosporine. Staurosporine caused rapid neurite outgrowth independent of the ERK signaling pathways. In contrast, neurite outgrowth in response to staurosporine was accompanied by activation of Rac1, and the Rac1 inhibitor NSC23766 attenuated the staurosporine-induced neurite outgrowth in a concentration-dependent manner. In addition, suppression of Rac1 activity by expression of the dominant negative mutant Rac1N17 also blocked the staurosporine-induced morphological differentiation of PC12 cells. Staurosporine caused an activation of NADPH oxidase and increased the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which was prevented by NSC23766 and diphenyleneiodonium (DPI), an NADPH oxidase inhibitor. Staurosporine-induced neurite outgrowth was attenuated by pretreatment with DPI and exogenous addition of sublethal concentration of H2O2 accelerated neurite outgrowth triggered by staurosporine. These results indicate that activation of Rac1, which leads to ROS generation, is required for neurite outgrowth induced by staurosporine in PC12 cells.