Abstract Erythropoietin (EPO), supports the function and survival of neurons through astrocytes and has a protective role in neonatal asphyxia brain injury; yet, its mechanism of action remains unclear. As a neuroprotective factor, EPO is also used in the treatment of various diseases, such as neurodegenerative diseases, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, by decreasing inflammatory reaction, resisting apoptosis, and lowering oxidative stress. The aim of this study was to examine the effect and mechanism of EPO on promoting human brain glial cell proliferation under hypoxia in vitro. Under CoC12-induced hypoxia, after adding EPO, high-throughput sequencing was used to screen out meaningful up-regulated and significant differentially expressed genes PI3K, IKKα CDK1 related to proliferation, and make further verification by qPCR and western blotting. Under hypoxia, EPO promoted cell proliferation and the expression of PI3K while this effect was inhibited (along with a decrease of downstream genes IKKα and CDK1 decreased) after adding PI3K inhibitor to cell culture. EPO can promote cell proliferation and CDK1 expression, while after inhibiting CDK1 expression, the promotion of EPO on cell proliferation was eliminated. These data proved that EPO promotes the proliferation of U251 cells by activating the PI3K-IKKα-CDK1 signaling pathway under CoC12-induced hypoxia.