Dopamine D2 receptors are members of the G protein-coupled receptor superfamily and are expressed on both neurons and astrocytes. Using rat C6 glioma cells stably expressing the rat D2L receptor, we show here that dopamine (DA) can activate both the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) pathways through a mechanism involving D2 receptor-G protein complexes and the Ras GTP-binding protein. Agonist binding to D2 receptors rapidly activated both kinases within 5 min, reached a maximum between 10 and 15 min, and then gradually decreased by 60 min. Maximal activation of both kinases occurred with 100 nM DA, which produced a ninefold enhancement of ERK activity and a threefold enhancement of JNK activity. DA-induced kinase activation was prevented by either (+)-butaclamol, a selective D2 receptor antagonist, or pertussis toxin, an uncoupler of G proteins from receptors, but not by (-)-butaclamol, the inactive isomer of (+)-butaclamol. Cotransfection of RasN17, a dominant negative Ras mutant, prevented DA-induced activation of both ERK and JNK. PD098059, a specific MEK1 inhibitor, also blocked ERK activation by DA. Transfection of SEK1 (K --> R) vector, a dominant negative SEK1 mutant, specifically prevented DA-induced JNK activation and subsequent c-Jun phosphorylation without effect on ERK activation. Furthermore, stimulation of D2 receptors promoted [3H]thymidine incorporation with a pattern similar to that for kinase activation. DA mitogenesis was tightly linked to Ras-dependent mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and JNK pathways. Transfection with RasN17 and application of PD098059 blocked DA-induced DNA synthesis. Transfection with Flag delta169, a dominant negative c-Jun mutant, also prevented stimulation of [3H]thymidine incorporation by DA. The demonstration of D2 receptor-stimulated MAPK pathways may help to understand dopaminergic physiological functions in the CNS.