Gastrin is a gastrointestinal peptide hormone, secreted by the gastric G cells and can exist as a fully processed amidated form (G17) or as unprocessed forms. All forms of gastrin possess trophic properties towards the gastrointestinal mucosa. An understanding of the signaling pathways involved is important to design therapeutic approaches to target gastrin-mediated cellular events. The studies described here were designed to identify the signaling pathways by which amidated gastrin (G17) mediates cancer cell migration. These studies indicated a time- and dose-dependent increase in gastric cancer cell migration after G17 stimulation, involving cholecystokinin 2 receptor. G17-induced migration was preceded by activation of MAPK pathways and was antagonized after pretreatment with SP600125, a pharmacological inhibitor of c-Jun-NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway. Knockdown of endogenous JNK1 expression via small interference RNA (JNK1-siRNA) inhibited G17-induced phosphorylation of c-Jun and migration, and overexpression of wild-type JNK1 or constitutive active JNK1 promoted G17-induced migration. Studies designed to identify the MAPK kinase kinase member mediating JNK activation indicated the involvement of mixed lineage kinase-3 (MLK3), which was transiently activated upon G17 treatment. Inhibition of MLK3 pathway via a pan-MLK inhibitor or knockdown of MLK3 expression by MLK3-siRNA antagonized G17-induced migration. Incubation with G17 also resulted in an induction of matrix metalloproteinase 7 promoter activity, which is known to mediate migration and invasion pathways in cancer cells. Modulation of MLK3, JNK1, and c-Jun pathways modulated G17-induced matrix metalloproteinase 7 promoter activation. These studies indicate that the MLK3/JNK1 axis mediates G17-induced gastric cancer cell migration, which can be targeted for designing novel therapeutic strategies for treating gastric malignancies.