Nitrotyrosine is a new biomarker of atherosclerosis and inflammation. The objective of this study was to determine the direct effects of free nitrotyrosine on human aortic smooth muscle cell (AoSMC) migration and molecular mechanisms. By a modified Boyden chamber assay, nitrotyrosine significantly increased AoSMC migration in a concentration-dependent manner. For example, nitrotyrosine at 300 nM increased AoSMC migration up to 152% compared with l-tyrosine-treated control cells (P<0.01). Cell wound healing assay confirmed this effect. Nitrotyrosine significantly increased the expression of some key cell migration-related molecules including PDGF receptor-B, matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2) and integrins alphaV and beta3 at both mRNA and protein levels in AoSMC (P<0.01). In addition, nitrotyrosine increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in AoSMC by staining with fluorescent dye DCFHDA. Furthermore, nitrotyrosine induced transient phosphorylation of ERK2 by Bio-Plex luminex immunoassay and western blot analysis. AoSMC were able to uptake nitrotyrosine. Antioxidants including seleno-l-methionine and superoxide dismutase mimetic (MnTBAP) as well as ERK1/2 inhibitor PD98059 effectively blocked the promoting effect of nitrotyrosine on AoSMC migration and the mRNA expression of above cell migration-related molecules. Thus, nitrotyrosine directly increases AoSMC migration in vitro and the expression of migration-related molecules through overproduction of ROS and activation of ERK1/2 pathway. Nitrotyrosine may contribute to cardiovascular pathogenesis.