In this study we show that phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2; also known as p44/42MAPK) following peroxynitrite (ONOO(-)) exposure occurs via a MAPK kinase (MEK)-independent but PKC-dependent pathway in rat-1 fibroblasts. ONOO(-)-mediated ERK1/2 phosphorylation was not blocked by MEK inhibitors PD98059 and U0126. Furthermore, no increase in MEK phosphorylation was detected upon ONOO(-) treatment. Staurosporine was used to investigate whether protein kinase C (PKC) is involved. This was confirmed by down-regulation of PKC by phorbol-12,13-dibutyrate, which resulted in significant reduction of ERK1/2 phosphorylation by ONOO(-), implying that activation of ERK by ONOO(-) depends on activation of PKC. Indeed, PKCalpha and epsilon were activated upon ONOO(-) exposure. When cells were treated with ONOO(-) in a calcium-free buffer, no activation of PKCalpha was detected. Concomitantly, a reduction of ERK1/2 phosphorylation was observed suggesting that calcium was required for translocation of PKCalpha and ERK phosphorylation by ONOO(-). Indeed, ONOO(-) exposure resulted in increased cytosolic calcium, which depended on the presence of extracellular calcium. Finally, data using Gö6976, an inhibitor of calcium-dependent PKC activation, implied that ONOO(-)-mediated ERK1/2 phosphorylation depends on activation of a calcium-dependent PKC.