Previous studies have reported that uric acid stimulates vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) proliferation in vitro. We hypothesized that uric acid may also have direct proinflammatory effects on VSMCs. Crystal- and endotoxin-free uric acid was found to increase VSMC monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) expression in a time- and dose-dependent manner, peaking at 24 hours. Increased mRNA and protein expression occurred as early as 3 hours after uric acid incubation and was partially dependent on posttranscriptional modification of MCP-1 mRNA. In addition, uric acid activated the transcription factors nuclear factor-kappaB and activator protein-1, as well as the MAPK signaling molecules ERK p44/42 and p38, and increased cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) mRNA expression. Inhibition of p38 (with SB 203580), ERK 44/42 (with UO126 or PD 98059), or COX-2 (with NS398) each significantly suppressed uric acid-induced MCP-1 expression at 24 hours, implicating these pathways in the response to uric acid. The ability of both n-acetyl-cysteine and diphenyleneionium (antioxidants) to inhibit uric acid-induced MCP-1 production suggested involvement of intracellular redox pathways. Uric acid regulates critical proinflammatory pathways in VSMCs, suggesting it may have a role in the vascular changes associated with hypertension and vascular disease.