The activation of protein kinase C (PKC) found in diabetic glomeruli and glomerular mesangial cells cultured under high glucose conditions has been proposed to contribute to the development of diabetic nephropathy. However, the abnormalities distal to PKC have not been fully elucidated yet. Herein, we provide the evidence that mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade, an important kinase cascade downstream to PKC and an activator of cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2) by direct phosphorylation, is activated in glomeruli isolated from streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. MAPK cascade was also activated in glomerular mesangial cells cultured under high glucose (27.8 mmol/l) conditions for 5 days, and the activation of MAPK cascade was inhibited by treating the cells with calphostin C, an inhibitor of PKC. Furthermore, the activities of cPLA2 also increased in cells cultured under the same conditions and this activation was inhibited by both calphostin C and PD 098059, an inhibitor of MEK (MAPK or extracellular signal-regulated kinase [ERK] kinase). These results indicate that MAPK cascade is activated in glomeruli and mesangial cells under the diabetic state possibly through the activation of PKC. Activated MAPK, in turn, may induce various functional changes of mesangial cells at least through the activation of cPLA2 and contribute to the development of diabetic nephropathy.