Systemic administration of fumaric acid (FA) derivatives was originally an empirical antipsoriatic treatment, which showed promising clinical results. In the present study, FURA-2-loaded suspensions of cultured normal keratinocytes and SV40-transformed keratinocytes (SVK-14 cells) were used to study the effects of FA derivatives on the intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i). Monomethylfumarate (MMF), dimethylfumarate (DMF) and monoethylfumarate (MEF) induced a rapid, transient [Ca2+]i increase in both cell types. This immediate increase reached maximal values of 396 nmol/l 10s after addition of MMF, and fell to basal values within 90-120 s (173 nmol/l for normal keratinocytes and 68 nmol/l for transformed keratinocytes). This increase was not affected by the prior addition of EGTA, indicating that FA derivatives released Ca2+ mainly from intracellular stores into the cytoplasm. Subsequently, dose-dependent inhibitory effects of FA derivatives on keratinocyte proliferation were demonstrated. The results of these experiments revealed that DMF was the most potent, MMF and MEF intermediate, and FA and malonic acid the least potent growth inhibitors. These antiproliferative effects of FA derivatives might be linked to the observed, transient [Ca2+]i elevations.