Nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) activity affects cell survival in ROS 17/2.8 osteoblasts. Preventing NF-kappaB transcription activity with a potent NF-kappaB inhibitor, pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC), results in apoptosis. Thus, we explored the effect of pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC), which potently blocks the activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) in serum-exposed condition, on the activation of mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK), especially, JNK/SAPK and p38 MAPK induction. PDTC transiently increased the phosphotransferase activity of c-Jun N-terminal Kinase1 (JNK1), which might in turn activates transcriptional activity of activating protein-1 (AP-1). The activation of JNK was completely decreased in dominant negative JNK1 transfected cells and the PDTC-induced cell death was attenuated in these cells. In addition, AP-1 activation was decreased in the JNK1 transfected cells, compared with vector-transfected cells. The NF-kappaB inhibitor also transiently activates p38 MAPK but SB203580, a specific p38 MAPK inhibitor, does not have any regulatory effect on PDTC-induced cell death, suggesting that the cell death is mediated by JNK not by p38 MAPK. Thus, overall, these results show that PDTC induces apoptosis and suggest that JNK/SAPK and subsequent AP-1 activation may be involved in the apoptotic pathway in ROS 17/2.8 osteoblasts.