The chemokine stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1) and its receptor, CXCR4, participate in the retention of acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML) cells within the bone marrow microenvironment and their release into the circulation. AML cells also constitutively express SDF-1-dependent elastase, which regulates their migration and proliferation. To study the molecular events and genes regulated by the SDF-1/CXCR4 axis and elastase in AML cells, we examined gene expression profiles of the AML cell line, U937, under treatment with a neutralizing anti-CXCR4 antibody or elastase inhibitor, as compared with non-treated cells, using DNA microarray technology. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering analysis demonstrated similar gene expression profiles of anti-CXCR4 antibody or elastase inhibitor-treated cells, as compared with control. Pathway and functional analysis showed a greater tendency toward differentiation in cells under either one of both treatment modalities. Thus given, we further analyzed the effects of CXCR4 inhibition on AML cell growth and differentiation using the antagonist AMD3100. AMD3100 arrested proliferation in AML cell lines and triggered changes that mimicked differentiation, including morphological changes and the expression of myeloid differentiation antigens. Inhibition of elastase also triggered the differentiation of AML cells. Our study defines a new role for the SDF-1/CXCR4 axis in the regulation of leukemic cell survival and differentiation.