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To clarify the involvement of the arginine decarboxylase (ADC) pathway in the salt stress response, the polyamine titre, putrescine biosynthetic gene expression, and enzyme activities were investigated in apple [Malus sylvestris (L.) Mill. var. domestica (Borkh.) Mansf.] in vitro callus under salt stress, during recovery after stress, and when ADC was inhibited by D-arginine, an inhibitor of ADC. Salt stress (200 mM NaCl) caused an increase in thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS) and electrolyte leakage (EL) of the callus, which was accompanied by an increase in free putrescine content, during 7 d of treatment. Conjugated putrescine was also increased, but this increase was limited to the early stage of salt stress. Accumulation of putrescine was in accordance with induction of ADC activity and expression of the apple ADC gene (MdADC). When callus that had been treated with 200 mM NaCl was transferred to fresh medium with (successive stress) or without (recovery) NaCl, TBARS and EL were significantly reduced in the recovery treatment, indicating promotion of formation of new callus cells, compared with the successive stress treatment. Meanwhile, MdADC expression and ADC activity were also decreased in the callus undergoing recovery, whereas those of the callus under successive stress were increased. Ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) activity showed a pattern opposite to that of ADC in these conditions. D-Arginine treatment led to more serious growth impairment than no treatment under salt stress. In addition, accumulation of putrescine, induction of MdADC, and activation of ADC in D-arginine-treated callus were not comparable with those of the untreated callus. Exogenous addition of putrescine could alleviate salt stress in terms of fresh weight increase and EL. All of these findings indicated that the ADC pathway was tightly involved in the salt stress response. Accumulation of putrescine under salt stress, the possible physiological role of putrescine in alleviating stress damage, and involvement of MdADC and ADC in response to salt stress are discussed.