To understand the mechanisms of prostaglandin F2alpha (PGF2alpha)-induced protein synthesis in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC), we have studied its effect on two major signal transduction pathways: mitogen-activated protein kinases and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-kinase) and their downstream targets ribosomal protein S6 kinase (p70(S6k)) and eukaryotic initiation factor eIF4E and its regulator 4E-BP1. PGF2alpha induced the activities of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 2 (ERK2) and Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) groups of mitogen-activated protein kinases, PI3-kinase, and p70(S6k) in a time-dependent manner in growth-arrested VSMC. PGF2alpha also induced eIF4E and 4E-BP1 phosphorylation, global protein synthesis, and basic fibroblast growth factor-2 (bFGF-2) expression in VSMC. Whereas inhibition of PI3-kinase by wortmannin completely blocked the p70(S6k) activation, it only partially decreased the ERK2 activity, and had no significant effect on global protein synthesis and bFGF-2 expression induced by PGF2alpha. Rapamycin, a potent inhibitor of p70(S6k), also failed to prevent PGF2alpha-induced global protein synthesis and bFGF-2 expression, although it partially decreased ERK2 activity. In contrast, inhibition of ERK2 activity by PD 098059 led to a significant loss of PGF2alpha-induced eIF4E and 4E-BP1 phosphorylation, global protein synthesis, and bFGF-2 expression. PGF2alpha-induced phosphorylation of eIF4E and 4E-BP1 was also found to be sensitive to inhibition by both wortmannin and rapamycin. These findings demonstrate that 1) PI3-kinase-dependent and independent mechanisms appear to be involved in PGF2alpha-induced activation of ERK2; 2) PGF2alpha-induced eIF4E and 4E-BP1 phosphorylation appear to be mediated by both ERK-dependent and PI3-kinase-dependent rapamycin-sensitive mechanisms; and 3) ERK-dependent eIF4E phosphorylation but not PI3-kinase-dependent p70(S6k) activation correlates with PGF2alpha-induced global protein synthesis and bFGF-2 expression in VSMC.