Cadmium (Cd) is one of worldwide environmental pollutants that causes bone homeostasis, which depends on the resorption of bones by osteoclasts and formation of bones by the osteoblasts (OB). However, the Cd toxicity on OB and its mechanism are unclear. Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved degradation process in which domestic intracellular components are selectively digested for the recycling of nutrients and energy. This process is indispensable for cell homeostasis maintenance and stress responses. Dysregulation at the level of autophagic activity consequently disturbs the balance between bone formation and bone resorption and mediates the onset and progression of multiple bone diseases, including osteoporosis. TAK1 has been recently emerged as an activator of AMPK and hence an autophagy inducer. AMPK is a key molecule that induces autophagy and regulates cellular metabolism to maintain energy homeostasis. Conversely, autophagy is inhibited by mTORC1. In this study, we found that Cd treatment caused the formation of autophagosomes, LC3-II lipidation and p62 downregulation, and the increased autophagic flux, indicating that Cd treatment induced autophagy in OBs. Cd treatment induced TAK1 activation mediated AMPK phosphorylation, which promoted autophagy via phosphorylation of ULK1 at S317. Meanwhile, Cd treatment dramatically decreased mTORC1, S6K1, 4E-BP1, S6, ULK1 and ULK1 phosphorylation, suggesting that mTORC1 activity was inhibited and inactive mTORC1 prevents ULK1 activation by phosphorylating ULK1 at SerS555 and Ser757. Our data strongly suggest that TAK1 mediates AMPK activation, which activates ULK1 by phosphorylating ULK1 and suppressing mTORC1-mediated ULK1 and ULK1 phosphorylation. Our study has revealed a signaling mechanism for TAK1 in Cd-induced autophagy in OBs.Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.