Colistin is a cyclic cationic polypeptide antibiotic with activity against multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. Our recent study demonstrated that colistin induces apoptosis in primary chick cortex neurons and PC-12 cells. Although apoptosis and autophagy have different impacts on cell fate, there is a complex interaction between them. Autophagy plays an important role as a homeostasis regulator by removing excessive or unnecessary proteins and damaged organelles. The aim of the present study was to investigate the modulation of autophagy and apoptosis regulation in PC-12 cells in response to colistin treatment. PC-12 cells were exposed to colistin (125 to 250 μg/ml), and autophagy was detected by visualization of monodansylcadaverine (MDC)-labeled vacuoles, LC3 (microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3) immunofluorescence microscopic examination, and Western blotting. Apoptosis was measured by flow cytometry, Hoechst 33258 staining, and Western blotting. Autophagosomes were observed after treatment with colistin for 12 h, and the levels of LC3-II gene expression were determined; observation and protein levels both indicated that colistin induced a high level of autophagy. Colistin treatment also led to apoptosis in PC-12 cells, and the level of caspase-3 expression increased over the 24-h period. Pretreatment of cells with 3-methyladenine (3-MA) increased colistin toxicity in PC-12 cells remarkably. However, rapamycin treatment significantly increased the expression levels of LC3-II and beclin 1 and decreased the rate of apoptosis of PC-12 cells. Our results demonstrate that colistin induced autophagy and apoptosis in PC-12 cells and that the latter was affected by the regulation of autophagy. It is very likely that autophagy plays a protective role in the reduction of colistin-induced cytotoxicity in neurons.