Microglia play various important roles in the CNS via the synthesis of cytokines. The ATP-evoked production of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and its intracellular signals were examined using a mouse microglial cell line, MG-5. ATP, but not its metabolites, produced IL-6 in a concentration-dependent manner. Although ATP activated two mitogen-activated protein kinases, i.e. p38 and extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase, only p38 was involved in the IL-6 induction. However, the activation of p38 was not sufficient for the IL-6 induction because 2'- and 3'-O-(4-benzoylbenzoyl) ATP, an agonist to P2X7 receptors, failed to produce IL-6 despite the fact that it activated p38. Unlike in other cytokines in microglial cells, P2Y rather than P2X7 receptors seem to have a major role in the IL-6 production by the cells. The ATP-evoked IL-6 production was attenuated by Gö6976, an inhibitor of Ca(2+)-dependent protein kinase C (PKC). The P2Y receptor responsible for these responses was insensitive to pertussis toxin (PTX) and was linked to phospholipase C. Taken together, ATP acting on PTX-insensitive P2Y receptors activates p38 and Ca(2+)-dependent PKC, thereby resulting in the mRNA expression and release of IL-6 in MG-5. This is a novel pathway for the induction of cytokines in microglia.