We investigated the mechanism of phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA)-induced migration of glioblastoma cells focusing on the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/heat shock protein 27 (Hsp27) pathway. PMA-induced cell migration and activation of p38MAPK in A172 glioblastoma cells. PMA-induced formation of lamellipodia and focal complexes was blocked by inhibiting p38MAPK with SB203580 or small interfering RNA (siRNA). Furthermore, activation of p38MAPK resulted in phosphorylation of an F-actin polymerization regulator, Hsp27. Immunohistochemical analysis showed that upon PMA stimulation, both unphosphorylated and phosphorylated Hsp27 were translocated to the lamellipodia. SB203580 or p38MAPK siRNA blocked these phenomena, indicating that Hsp27 phosphorylation and translocation from cytosol to membrane were mediated by p38MAPK. To address the question of whether endogenous Hsp27 participates in PMA-induced migration, we inhibited the expression of Hsp27 using Hsp27 siRNA. Although knockdown of Hsp27 by siRNA had little effect on p38MAPK activation, lamellipodia and focal complex formation was markedly inhibited. Migration was also abolished in Hsp27 siRNA-transfected cells. In conclusion, p38MAPK activation followed by Hsp27 phosphorylation was required for PMA-induced migration. Furthermore, Hsp27 itself played critical roles in PMA-induced migration. Our data provide substantial evidence for a model elucidating the molecular mechanisms of regulation of actin dynamics and migration by PMA-activated protein kinase C in glioblastoma cells.