We previously reported that oxidized low-density lipoprotein (Ox-LDL)-induced expression of granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) via PKC, leading to activation of phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI-3K), was important for macrophage proliferation [J Biol Chem 275 (2000) 5810]. The aim of the present study was to elucidate the role of extracellular-signal regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) and of p38 MAPK in Ox-LDL-induced macrophage proliferation. Ox-LDL-induced proliferation of mouse peritoneal macrophages assessed by [3H]thymidine incorporation and cell counting assays was significantly inhibited by MEK1/2 inhibitors, PD98059 or U0126, and p38 MAPK inhibitors, SB203580 or SB202190, respectively. Ox-LDL-induced GM-CSF production was inhibited by MEK1/2 inhibitors but not by p38 MAPK inhibitors in mRNA and protein levels, whereas recombinant GM-CSF-induced macrophage proliferation was inhibited by p38 MAPK inhibitors but enhanced by MEK1/2 inhibitors. Recombinant GM-CSF-induced PI-3K activation and Akt phosphorylation were significantly inhibited by SB203580 but enhanced by PD98059. Our results suggest that ERK1/2 is involved in Ox-LDL-induced macrophage proliferation in the signaling pathway before GM-CSF production, whereas p38 MAPK is involved after GM-CSF release. Thus, the importance of MAPKs in Ox-LDL-induced macrophage proliferation was confirmed and the control of MAPK cascade could be targeted as a potential treatment of atherosclerosis.