Bone metastases from prostate cancer cause abnormal new bone formation, however, the factors involved and the pathways leading to the response are incompletely defined. We investigated the mechanisms of osteoblast stimulatory effects of LNCaP prostate carcinoma cell conditioned media (CM). MC3T3-E1 osteoblastic cells were cultured with CM from confluent LNCaP cells. LNCaP CM stimulated MAP kinase, cell proliferation (3H-thymidine incorporation), and protein synthesis (14C-proline incorporation) in the MC3T3-E1 cells. The increases in cell proliferation and protein synthesis were prevented by inhibition of the MAP kinase pathway. IGF-I mimicked the effects of the CM on the MC3T3-E1 cells and inhibition of IGF-I action decreased the LNCaP CM stimulation of 3H-thymidine and 14C-proline incorporation and MAP kinase activity. The findings indicate that IGF-I is an important factor for the stimulatory effects of LNCaP cell CM on cell proliferation and protein synthesis in osteoblastic cells, and that MAP kinase is a component of the signaling pathway for these effects.