Via their capacities for proliferation and synthesis of matrix proteins such as collagen, fibroblasts are key effectors in the pathogenesis of fibrotic disorders such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) potently inhibits these functions in lung fibroblasts through receptor ligation and production of the second messenger cAMP, but the downstream pathways mediating such actions have not been fully characterized. We sought to investigate the roles of the cAMP effectors protein kinase A (PKA) and exchange protein activated by cAMP-1 (Epac-1) in modulating these two functions in primary human fetal lung IMR-90 fibroblasts. The specific roles of these two effector pathways were examined by treating cells with PKA-specific (6-bnz-cAMP) and Epac-specific (8-pCPT-2'-O-Me-cAMP) agonists, inhibiting PKA with the inhibitor KT 5720, overexpressing the PKA catalytic subunit, and silencing Epac-1 using short hairpin RNA. PGE(2) inhibition of collagen I expression was mediated exclusively by activation of PKA, while inhibition of fibroblast proliferation was mediated exclusively by activation of Epac-1. PGE(2) and Epac-1 inhibited cell proliferation through activation of the small GTPase Rap1, since decreasing Rap1 activity by transfection with Rap1GAP or the dominant-negative Rap1N17 prevented, and transfection with the constitutively active Rap1V12 mimicked, the anti-proliferative effects of PGE(2). On the other hand, PKA inhibition of collagen was dependent on inhibition of protein kinase C-delta. The selective use of PKA and Epac-1 pathways to inhibit distinct aspects of fibroblast activation illustrate the pleiotropic ability of PGE(2) to inhibit diverse fibroblast functions.