The advent of imatinib mesylate (IM) has dramatically improved the outcome of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia, but drug resistance, particularly in advanced stage of disease, portents eventual relapse and progression. To identify the candidate molecule responsible for resistance during IM treatment, an IM-resistant K562 cell line was generated by culturing in gradually increasing dose of IM. The expression of Nrf-2 and its downstream target, Gst-α, were significantly induced in these cells. GST-α, in turn, mediated cell survival by maintaining intracellular low level of 4-HNE. Inhibition of Nrf-2 effectively reduced the expression of Gst-α, resulting in accumulation of 4-HNE and elevated sensitiveness to IM. Moreover, in IM-sensitive K562 cells enforced Gst-α expression strikingly protected cells from the insult of IM. Finally, we also examined the levels of Nrf-2 in clinical bone morrow samples. Nrf-2 and Gst-α were more abundant in bone morrow of CML patients compared with that of healthy donors. In addition, Nrf-2 and Gst-α were further up-regulated in samples of patients with weak response to IM. In conclusion, our study shows that rapid clearance of 4-HNE by Nrf-2/GST may represents a novel molecular basis of IM resistance in CML.