We characterized a new signaling pathway leading to the activation of cAMP-responsive element-binding protein (CREB) in several cell lines affected by mitochondrial dysfunction. In vitro kinase assays, inhibitors of several kinase pathways and overexpression of a dominant-negative mutant for calcium/calmodulin kinase IV (CaMKIV), which blocks the activation of CREB, showed that CaMKIV is activated by a mitochondrial activity impairment. A high calcium concentration leading to the disruption of the protein interaction with protein phosphatase 2A explains CaMKIV activation in these conditions. Transcriptionally active phosphorylated CREB was also found in a ρ0 143B human osteosarcoma cell line and in a MERRF cybrid cell line mutated for tRNALys (A8344G). We also showed that phosphorylated CREB is involved in the proliferation defect induced by a mitochondrial dysfunction. Indeed, cell proliferation inhibition can be prevented by CaMKIV inhibition and CREB dominant-negative mutants. Finally, our data suggest that phosphorylated CREB recruits p53 tumor suppressor protein, modifies its transcriptional activity and increases the expression of p21Waf1/Cip1, a p53-regulated cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor.