The type II p21-activated kinases (PAKs) are key effectors of RHO-family GTPases involved in cell motility, survival, and proliferation. Using a structure-guided approach, we discovered that type II PAKs are regulated by an N-terminal autoinhibitory pseudosubstrate motif centered on a critical proline residue, and that this regulation occurs independently of activation loop phosphorylation. We determined six X-ray crystal structures of either full-length PAK4 or its catalytic domain, that demonstrate the molecular basis for pseudosubstrate binding to the active state with phosphorylated activation loop. We show that full-length PAK4 is constitutively autoinhibited, but mutation of the pseudosubstrate releases this inhibition and causes increased phosphorylation of the apoptotic regulation protein Bcl-2/Bcl-X(L) antagonist causing cell death and cellular morphological changes. We also find that PAK6 is regulated by the pseudosubstrate region, indicating a common type II PAK autoregulatory mechanism. Finally, we find Src SH3, but not beta-PIX SH3, can activate PAK4. We provide a unique understanding for type II PAK regulation.