Arsenic exposure has been reported to cause neoplastic transformation through the activation of PcG proteins. In the present study, we show that activation of p38α mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) is required for arsenic-induced neoplastic transformation. Exposure of cells to 0.5 μM arsenic increased CRE and c-Fos promoter activities that were accompanied by increases in p38α MAPK and CREB phosphorylation and expression levels concurrently with AP-1 activation. Introduction of short hairpin (sh) RNA-p38α into BALB/c 3T3 cells markedly suppressed arsenic-induced colony formation compared with wildtype cells. CREB phosphorylation and AP-1 activation were decreased in p38α knockdown cells after arsenic treatment. Arsenic-induced AP-1 activation, measured as c-Fos and CRE promoter activities, and CREB phosphorylation were attenuated by p38 inhibition in BALB/c 3T3 cells. Thus, p38α MAPK activation is required for arsenic-induced neoplastic transformation mediated through CREB phosphorylation and AP-1 activation. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.