The RAS-RAF-MEK-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway plays a pivotal role in various cellular responses, including cellular growth, differentiation, survival and motility. Constitutive activation of the ERK pathway has been linked to the development and progression of human cancers. Here, we reported that mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase (MKP)-3, a negative regulator of ERK1/2, lost its expression particularly in the protein level, was significantly correlated with high ERK1/2 activity in primary human ovarian cancer cells using quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and western blot analyses. Intriguingly, the loss of MKP3 protein was associated with ubiquitination/proteosome degradation mediated by high intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) accumulation such as hydrogen peroxide in ovarian cancer cells. Functionally, short hairpin RNA knock down of endogenous MKP3 resulted in increased ERK1/2 activity, cell proliferation rate, anchorage-independent growth ability and resistance to cisplatin in ovarian cancer cells. Conversely, enforced expression of MKP3 in MKP3-deficient ovarian cancer cells significantly reduced ERK1/2 activity and inhibited cell proliferation, anchorage-independent growth ability and tumor development in nude mice. Furthermore, the enforced expression of MKP3 succeeded to sensitize ovarian cancer cells to cisplatin-induced apoptosis in vitro and in vivo. These results suggest a molecular mechanism by which the accumulation of ROS during ovarian cancer progression may cause the degradation of MKP3, which in turn leads to aberrant ERK1/2 activation and contributes to tumorigenicity and chemoresistance of human ovarian cancer cells.