Hypoxia has been shown to act as a proliferative stimulus for adventitial fibroblasts of the pulmonary artery. The signaling pathways involved in this growth response, however, remain unclear. We tested the hypothesis that hypoxia-induced proliferation of fibroblasts would be dependent on distinct (compared with serum) activation and utilization patterns of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases initiated by Galpha(i/o) proteins. We found that hypoxia stimulated increases in DNA synthesis and growth of quiescent fibroblasts in the absence of exogenous mitogens and also markedly augmented serum-stimulated growth responses. Hypoxia caused a transient activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), the time course and pattern of which was somewhat similar to that induced by serum but which was of lesser magnitude. On the other hand, hypoxia-induced activation of p38 MAP kinase was biphasic, whereas serum-stimulated activation of p38 MAP kinase was transient, and the magnitude of activation was greater for hypoxia compared with that of serum stimulation. ERK1/2, JNK1, and p38 MAP kinase but not JNK2 were necessary for hypoxia-induced proliferation because PD98059, SB202190, and JNK1 antisense oligonucleotides nearly ablated the growth response. JNK2 appeared to act as a negative modulator of hypoxia-induced growth because JNK2 antisense oligonucleotides led to an increase in DNA synthesis. In serum-stimulated cells, antisense JNK1 oligonucleotides and PD98059 had inhibitory effects on proliferation, whereas SB202190 led to an increase in DNA synthesis. Pertussis toxin, which blocks Galpha(i/o)-mediated signaling, markedly attenuated hypoxia-induced DNA synthesis and activation of ERK and JNK but not p38 MAP kinase. We conclude that hypoxia itself can act as a growth promoting stimulus for subsets of bovine neonatal adventitial fibroblasts largely through Galpha(i/o)-mediated activation of a complex network of MAP kinases whose specific contributions to hypoxia-induced proliferation differ from traditional serum-induced growth signals.