The aqueous humour of the eye is a rich source of growth factors, many of which have been shown to be lens cell mitogens; however, the identity of the endogenous mitogen(s) for lens cells is still unknown. As a first approach to identify the mechanisms by which these aqueous humour-derived growth factors induce lens cell proliferation, the present study set out to examine MAPK/ERK1/2 and PI3-K/Akt signalling associated with lens cell proliferation. Using a lens explant system, we examined the effects of different lens mitogens (aqueous humour, FGF, PDGF, IGF and EGF) using 5'-2'-bromo-deoxyuridine incorporation. In addition, we adopted immunolabelling techniques to compare the roles that the ERK1/2 and PI3-K signalling pathways play in regulating lens cell proliferation. We showed that the aqueous humour, and all the other growth factors examined, could activate ERK1/2 and PI3-K/Akt signalling. By targeting these pathways using specific pharmacological inhibitors, we were able to show that both ERK1/2 and PI3-K signalling are required for growth factor-induced lens cell proliferation, and that there was a strong correlation between the spatial distribution of proliferating cells in lens explants with ERK1/2 labelling. Furthermore, our blocking studies confirmed that PI3-K/Akt signalling can act upstream of ERK1/2, potentiating ERK1/2 phosphorylation in growth factor-induced lens cell proliferation. A better understanding of the signalling pathways required for aqueous humour-induced lens cell proliferation may ultimately allow us to identify the mitogen(s) that are important for regulating lens cell proliferation in situ.