Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is a potent mitogen for many cells, especially when its levels are elevated under pathological conditions, as seen in tumor cell progression and astroglial activation in neuropathies. While ET-1 is known to cause astroglial proliferation, in the present study, multiple signaling pathways involved in ET-1-mediated astrocyte proliferation were characterized. Treatment with PD98059 and U0126 (MEK inhibitors) inhibited not only ET-1-induced cell proliferation but also ET-1-activated phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) in U373MG astrocytoma cells. Whereas the nonselective protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor chelerythrine attenuated ET-1-induced cell proliferation, it was unable to block ET-1-induced ERK phosphorylation. However, ET-1 did not activate conventional or novel PKCs and did not elevate intracellular calcium. In addition, U73122 (a selective phospholipase C inhibitor), FTI-277 (an H-Ras inhibitor), as well as protein tyrosine kinase inhibitors also did not abolish ET-1-induced ERK1/2 phosphorylation. ET-1 treatment increased the activity of total Ras but not H-Ras. The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway appeared to be involved in signal transduction induced by ET-1, but it did not appear to participate in cross talk with the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. Activated ET receptors did not propagate signals either through protein tyrosine kinases or transactivation of EGF receptor tyrosine kinases, which typically trigger Ras-Raf-MAPK pathways. The results indicate that ET-1 stimulates cell proliferation by the activation of MAPK-, PKC-, and PI3K-dependent pathways that appear to function in a parallel manner. There is no apparent, direct "cross talk" between these pathways in U373MG cells, but rather, they might act on the independent but necessary components of the mitogenic effects of ET-1.