Osteoblasts, the cells responsible for bone formation, derive from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in bone marrow. To acquire a new cell phenotype, uncommitted MSCs must undergo several proliferation and differentiation changes. Although, it is known that extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases (ERKs) mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathway signaling is involved in the proliferation and differentiation processes, the role of ERKs in osteogenic differentiation it is controversial, at present. In addition, the function that ERK could play in MSCs derived from osteoporotic patients it is not well documented. In this study, we analyze whether previously observed differences in the dynamic response of MSCs from normal and osteoporotic postmenopausal women can be explained by changes in the activation of this signal transduction pathway. Levels of ERK phosphorylation and their correlation with osteogenic differentiation were evaluated in cultures of MSCs derived from osteoporotic postmenopausal women and “healthy” controls. The results show that, under basal conditions, MSCs derived from osteoporotic donors show a level of ERK phosphorylation 2.5 times higher than MSCs derived from control donors. The addition of the osteogenic stimulus only slightly increases the p-ERK level in cells derived from osteoporotic donors, and is higher in cells derived from control women. Important differences in the ability of PD98059 to inhibit phosphorylation of ERK in both types of cells were also observed, as well as the effect that this inhibition produced on calcium deposition. We conclude that the MAP kinase pathway signaling is differentially activated in MSCs derived from osteoporotic postmenopausal women. The high p-ERK levels in MSC derived from osteoporotic donors could determine the unresponsiveness of these cells to the osteogenic differentiation stimulus. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.