Oxidative stress is known to induce cell death in a wide variety of cell types, apparently by modulating intracellular signaling pathways. In this study, we have examined the activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades in relation to oxidant-induced cell death in an oligodendrocyte cell line, central glia-4 (CG4). Exposure of CG4 cells to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) resulted in an increased tyrosine phosphorylation of several protein species, including the abundantly expressed platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) receptor and the activation of the three MAPK subgroups, i.e., extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), p38 MAPK, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). Dose-response studies showed differential sensitivities of PDGF receptor phosphorylation (>1 mM) and ERK/p38 MAPK (>0.5 mM) and JNK (>0.1 mM) activation by H2O2. The activation of ERK was inhibited by PD98059, a specific inhibitor of the upstream kinase, MAPK or ERK kinase (MEK). H2O2 also activated MAPK-activated protein kinase-2, and this activation was blocked by SB203580, a specific inhibitor of p38 MAPK. The oxidant-induced cell death was indicated by morphological changes, decreased 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide reduction, and DNA fragmentation. These effects were suppressed dose-dependently by the MEK inhibitor PD98059. The results demonstrate that H2O2 induces the activation of multiple MAPKs in oligodendrocyte progenitors and that the activation of ERK is associated with oxidant-mediated cytotoxicity.