The response of the human acute myeloid leukemia cell line THP-1 to phorbol esters has been widely studied to test candidate leukemia therapies and as a model of cell cycle arrest and monocyte-macrophage differentiation. Here we have employed Cap Analysis of Gene Expression (CAGE) to analyze a dense time course of transcriptional regulation in THP-1 cells treated with phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) over 96 h. PMA treatment greatly reduced the numbers of cells entering S phase and also blocked cells exiting G2/M. The PMA-treated cells became adherent and expression of mature macrophage-specific genes increased progressively over the duration of the time course. Within 1–2 h PMA induced known targets of tumor protein p53 (TP53), notably CDKN1A, followed by gradual down-regulation of cell-cycle associated genes. Also within the first 2 h, PMA induced immediate early genes including transcription factor genes encoding proteins implicated in macrophage differentiation (EGR2, JUN, MAFB) and down-regulated genes for transcription factors involved in immature myeloid cell proliferation (MYB, IRF8, GFI1). The dense time course revealed that the response to PMA was not linear and progressive. Rather, network-based clustering of the time course data highlighted a sequential cascade of transient up- and down-regulated expression of genes encoding feedback regulators, as well as transcription factors associated with macrophage differentiation and their inferred target genes. CAGE also identified known and candidate novel enhancers expressed in THP-1 cells and many novel inducible genes that currently lack functional annotation and/or had no previously known function in macrophages. The time course is available on the ZENBU platform allowing comparison to FANTOM4 and FANTOM5 data.