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Melanoma growth stimulatory activity/growth-regulated protein (MGSA/GRO), a CXC chemokine, plays an important role in inflammation, wound healing, growth regulation, angiogenesis, and tumorigenesis. Constitutive expression of MGSA/GROalpha in melanoma tumors is associated with constitutive nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB activity. We show here that either exogenous addition or continuous expression of MGSA/GROalpha in immortalized melanocytes enhances NF-kappaB activation, as well as mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase kinase kinase (MEKK) 1, MAP kinase kinase (MEK) 3/6, and p38 MAP kinase activation. Expression of dominant negative M-Ras (S27N), dominant negative MEKK1 (K432M), or specific chemical inhibitors for p38 MAP kinase (SB202190 and SB203580) block MGSA/GROalpha-induced NF-kappaB transactivation, demonstrating that Ras, MEKK1, and p38 are involved in the signal pathways of MGSA/GROalpha activation of NF-kappaB. Expression of dominant active Ras or dominant active MEKK1 alone can also stimulate NF-kappaB activation. The expression of dominant negative MEKK1 inhibits the Ras-induced NF-kappaB activation, suggesting that MEKK1 is a downstream target of Ras. Moreover, MGSA/GROalpha induction of NF-kappaB is independent of the MEK1/ERK cascade, because MGSA/GROalpha failed to increase ERK and ELK activation, and specific chemical inhibitors for MEK1 (PD98059) had no effect on MGSA/GROalpha-enhanced NF-kappaB activation. These data demonstrate that NF-kappaB activation is required for MGSA/GROalpha-induced melanocyte transformation through a Ras/MEKK1/p38 cascade in melanocytes.