IL-1beta and stretch increase uterine smooth muscle cell (USMC) prostaglandin H synthase 2 (PGHS-2) and interleukin (IL)-8 mRNA expression in a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) dependent mechanism. We have tested our hypothesis that stretch and IL-1beta activate different components of the MAPK cascade in USMC and investigated the effects of specific MAPK inhibitors on these components. Further, we have used a Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 activator, anisomycin, to compare the effect of differential MAPK activation on the expression of PGHS-2, IL-8 and oxytocin receptor (OTR) mRNA with that seen in response to stretch and IL-1beta. Stretch, IL-1beta and anisomycin activated similar components of the MAPK cascade and specific inhibitors of MAPK altered phosphorylation of MAPK and downstream cascade components as expected. Expression of OTR mRNA was increased by stretch and anisomycin in a MAPK-independent manner. All three stimuli increased PGHS-2 and IL-8 mRNA expression in a MAPK-dependent manner, but while the MAPK inhibitors reduced the IL-1beta-induced activation of activating transcription factor (ATF)-2, liver activating protein (LAP) and c-jun, the stretch-induced increase in LAP was unaffected by MAPK-inhibition and only JNK inhibition appeared to reduce c-jun activation. These observations show that stretch, IL-1beta and anisomycin activate the same components of the MAPK cascade, but differentially activate LAP and liver inhibitory protein (LIP) perhaps accounting for the increase in OTR by stretch and anisomycin but not IL-1beta observed in this study. J. Cell. Physiol. 212: 195–206, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.