The molecular mechanisms underlying antiproliferative actions of the steroid 1alpha,25-dihydroxy vitamin D(3) (1,25D) in human osteosarcoma cells are known only partially. To better understand the signaling involved in 1,25D anti-tumorigenic properties in bone, we stably silenced vitamin D receptor (VDR) expression in the human osteosarcoma SaOS-2 cell line. We found that 1,25D treatment reduced cell proliferation by approximately 25% after 3 days only in SaOS-2 cells expressing native levels of VDR protein, and involved activation of MAPK/AP-1/p21(waf1) pathways. Both sustained (3 days) and transient (15min) 1,25D treatment activated JNK and ERK1/2 MAPK signaling in a nongenomic VDR-dependent manner. However, only sustained exposure to hormone led to upregulation of p21 and subsequent genomic control of the cell cycle. Specific blockade of MEK1/MEK2 cascade upstream from ERK1/2 abrogated 1,25D activation of AP-1 and p21, and subsequent antiproliferative effects, even in the presence of a nuclear VDR. We conclude that 1,25D-induced inhibition of human osteosarcoma cell proliferation occurs via sustained activation of JNK and MEK1/MEK2 pathways downstream of nongenomic VDR signaling that leads to upregulation of a c-Jun/c-Fos (AP-1) complex, which in turn modulates p21(waf1) gene expression. Our results demonstrate a cross-talk between 1,25D/VDR nongenomic and genomic signaling at the level of MAP kinase activation that leads to reduction of cell proliferation in human osteosarcoma cells.