The genes encoding inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2, also known as prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase-2) are induced in many types of cells in response to proinflammatory cytokines. We have previously shown that interleukin-1beta (IL) stimulates iNOS and COX-2 mRNA in cardiac myocytes. Because IL has been shown to activate mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways in many different cells, we tested whether the p42/44 and p38 MAPK pathways were involved in IL stimulation of iNOS and COX-2, using a specific inhibitor of p42/44 activation, PD98059 (PD), and the p38 inhibitor SB205380 (SB). Nitrites were measured using the Griess reagent, prostaglandin PGE2 by an enzyme immunoassay, iNOS and COX-2 protein by Western blot analysis, and iNOS mRNA by Northern blot analysis. Tested separately, the p38 kinase and MAPK inhibitors partially reduced IL stimulation of nitrite, iNOS protein, and iNOS mRNA; used together, they completely abolished the effect of IL. SB and PD inhibited IL-stimulated COX-2 protein by 60% and 80%, respectively, and IL-stimulated COX-2 protein was totally prevented by the combination of inhibitors. PGE2 production was inhibited more than 99% by either drug alone, suggesting a posttranslational effect on enzyme activity. To test whether this posttranslational effect involved the cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2) isoform, Western blots were probed for cPLA2 protein. Results indicated that IL stimulated cPLA2 activity and synthesis, which was inhibited by SB but not PD. These data indicate that (1) IL induction of iNOS synthesis depends on both the p42/44 and p38 signaling pathways, acting primarily at the level of transcriptional regulation; and (2) IL regulation of COX-2 synthesis involves the p42/44 and p38 signaling pathways, with an additional level of regulation occurring posttranslationally, perhaps at the level of activation of the cPLA2 isoform, which may be involved in intracellular signaling, as well as regulation of arachidonic acid release for COX-2 activity.