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Cisplatin treatment activates multiple signal transduction pathways, which can lead to several cellular responses including cell cycle arrest, DNA repair, survival, or apoptosis. We investigated the response of the mitogen-activated protein kinases, extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2), c-Jun-N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1), and p38, to cisplatin treatment in the ovarian carcinoma cell line SK-OV-3. Cisplatin caused a late and prolonged induction in a dose-dependent manner of both ERK1/2 and JNK1 activity. ERK1/2 and JNK1 activities continued to increase in magnitude up to 24 h following initiation of cisplatin treatment. In contrast, cisplatin treatment had no effect on p38 activity. Transplatin failed to induce either ERK1/2 or JNK1 at 24 h, which suggests that the activation of these kinases was dependent on cisplatin-specific DNA damage. Treatment with cycloheximide resulted in inhibition of cisplatin-induced ERK1/2 activation, demonstrating that ERK1/2 activity induced by cisplatin was dependent on de novo protein synthesis. Furthermore, inhibition of cisplatin-induced ERK1/2 activity by PD 98059 caused enhanced cisplatin cytotoxicity. Similar enhanced cytotoxic effects of cisplatin were also observed following treatment with PD 98059 in the ovarian carcinoma cell line UCI 101. These observations indicate that ERK1/2 activation induced by cisplatin partially protects cells from cisplatin cytotoxicity. Continued investigation into the mechanism by which the ERK pathway and other signal transduction pathways modulate the response to cisplatin may be helpful in the development of new strategies for improving the therapeutic use of platinum drugs.