Mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases have been implicated in hemodynamic load induced heart failure. Both angiotensin II (Ang II) and mechanical stretch activate MAP kinases in cardiac myocytes. In this study, we used a neonatal rat ventricular myocyte (NRVM) model to determine the role of focal-adhesion kinase (FAK) in beta1 integrin mediated MAP kinase activation in response to mechanical stretch in presence and absence of Ang II receptor blockade (ATB). NRVM plated on deformable membranes coated with collagen IV were exposed to 20% equiaxial static-stretch. beta1 integrin signaling was blocked by adenovirus-mediated expression of a dominant-negative form of beta1D integrin (tac-beta1D). FAK signaling was disrupted by infecting NRVM with adenovirus expressing FAK-related non-kinase (FRNK). Western blot analysis was used to assess the phosphorylation of MAP kinases. In the presence and absence of ATB, mechanical stretch caused maximal phosphorylation of ERK, p38 and JNK at 5 min, which was significantly attenuated in NRVM expressing tac-beta1D. In the presence of ATB, FRNK overexpression significantly increased basal phosphorylation of ERK (40.2+/-8.6% P<0.05), p38 (39.5+/-11.7%, P<0.05), JNK (86+/-29.4%, P<0.05) and stretch-induced p38 (48.1+/-8.7%, P<0.05) and JNK (85.0+/-19.4%, P<0.05) phosphorylation. However, in the absence of ATB, FRNK overexpression significantly reduced basal and stretch-induced phosphorylation of only ERK. Examination of FAK activation revealed that beta1 integrin was required for stretch-induced phosphorylation of FAK at Y397 and Y925, but not Y861. In summary, mechanical stretch-activated ERK1/2, p38 and JNK through FAK independent and dependent mechanisms. Beta1 integrin was required for FAK independent activation of all three MAP kinases, whereas cross-talk between beta1 integrin and Ang II receptors mediated FAK dependent regulation of ERK1/2.