Exposure of MDA-MB-231 human mammary carcinoma cells to an ionizing radiation dose of 2 Gy results in immediate activation and Tyr phosphorylation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Doxycycline induced expression of a dominant negative EGFR-CD533 mutant, lacking the COOH-terminal 533 amino acids, in MDA-TR15-EGFR-CD533 cells was used to characterize intracellular signaling responses following irradiation. Within 10 min, radiation exposure caused an immediate, transient activation of mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) which was completely blocked by expression of EGFR-CD533. The same radiation treatment also induced an immediate activation of the c-Jun-NH2-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) pathway that was followed by an extended rise in kinase activity after 30 min. Expression of EGFR-CD533 did not block the immediate JNK1 response but completely inhibited the later activation. Treatment of MDA-TR15-EGFR-CD533 cells with the MEK1/2 inhibitor, PD98059, resulted in approximately 70% inhibition of radiation-induced MAPK activity, and potentiated the radiation-induced increase of immediate JNK1 activation twofold. Inhibition of Ras farnesylation with a concomitant inhibition of Ras function completely blocked radiation-induced MAPK and JNK1 activation. Modulation of EGFR and MAPK functions also altered overall cellular responses of growth and apoptosis. Induction of EGFR-CD533 or treatment with PD98059 caused a 3-5-fold increase in radiation toxicity in a novel repeated radiation exposure growth assay by interfering with cell proliferation and potentiating apoptosis. In summary, this data demonstrates that both MAPK and JNK1 activation in response to radiation occur through EGFR-dependent and -independent mechanisms, and are mediated by signaling through Ras. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that radiation-induced activation of EGFR results in downstream activation of MAPK which may affect the radiosensitivity of carcinoma cells.