Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are formed by myeloid cells as a defense strategy against microorganisms. ROS however also trigger poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1- (PARP-1) dependent cell death (parthanatos) in adjacent lymphocytes, which has been forwarded as a mechanism of immune escape in several forms of cancer. The present study assessed the role of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), in particular the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), in ROS-induced signal transduction leading to lymphocyte parthanatos. We report that inhibitors of ERK1/2 phosphorylation upheld natural killer (NK) cell-mediated cytotoxicity under conditions of oxidative stress and rescued NK cells and CD8(+) T lymphocytes from cell death induced by ROS-producing monocytes. ERK1/2 phosphorylation inhibition also protected lymphocytes from cell death induced by exogenous hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and from ROS generated by xanthine oxidase or glucose oxidase. Phosphorylation of ERK1/2 was observed in lymphocytes shortly after exposure to ROS. ROS-generating myeloid cells and exogenous H2O2 triggered PARP 1-dependent accumulation of poly ADP-ribose (PAR), which was prevented by ERK pathway inhibitors. ERK1/2 phosphorylation was induced by ROS independently of PARP-1. Our findings are suggestive of a role for ERK1/2 in ROS-induced lymphocyte parthanatos, and that the ERK axis may provide a therapeutic target for the protection of lymphocytes against oxidative stress.