Proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) is one of the major causes of the failure of retinal detachment surgery. Its pathogenesis includes a fibrotic reaction by the retinal pigment epithelium and other retina-derived non-neural cells, leading to fixation of the detached retina. We examined the role of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) in transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta2-dependent enhancement of the fibrogenic reaction in a human retinal pigment epithelial cell line, ARPE-19, and also evaluated the therapeutic efficacy of inhibiting p38MAPK by adenoviral gene transfer of dominant-negative (DN) p38MAPK in a mouse model of PVR. Exogenous TGF-beta2 activates p38MAPK in ARPE-19 cells. It also suppresses cell proliferation, but this was unaffected by addition of the p38MAPK inhibitor, SB202190. SB202190 interfered with TGF-beta2-dependent cell migration and production of collagen type I and fibronectin, but had no effect on basal levels of these activities. While SB202190 did not affect phosphorylation of the C-terminus of Smads2/3, it did suppress the transcriptional activity of Smads3/4 as indicated by a reporter gene, CAGA12-Luc. Gene transfer of DN-p38MAPK attenuated the post-retinal detachment fibrotic reaction of the retinal pigment epithelium in vivo in mice, supporting its effectiveness in preventing/treating PVR.