Cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) can mediate reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced cell death through its catalytic processes. Heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) is an important molecular chaperone which is essential for cellular integrity. We previously showed that inhibition of Hsp90 with Geldanamycin (GA), an inhibitor of Hsp90 increased CYP2E1 mediated toxicity in CYP2E1 over-expressing HepG2 cells (E47 cells) but not in C34-HepG2 cells devoid of CYP2E1 expression. The aim of the present study was to test the hypothesis that the potentiation of CYP2E1 toxicity in E47 cells with GA may involve changes in mitogen activated protein kinase signal transduction pathways. GA was toxic to E47 cells and SB203580, an inhibitor of p38 MAPK prevented this decrease in viability. The protective effects of SB203580 were effective only when SB203580 was added before GA treatment. GA activated p38 MAPK in E47 cells and this activation was an early and a sustained event. GA elevated ROS levels and lipid peroxidation and lowered GSH levels in E47 cells and these changes were blunted or prevented by treatment with SB203580. Apoptosis was increased by GA and prevented by pre-treatment with SB203580. The loss in mitochondrial membrane potential in E47 cells after GA treatment was also decreased significantly with SB203580 treatment. The activity and expression of CYP2E1 and Hsp90 levels were not altered by SB203580. In conclusion, the inhibition of Hsp90 with GA increases the toxicity of CYP2E1 in HepG2 cells through an early and sustained activation of the p38 MAPK pathway.