We previously showed that basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) activates p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase via Ca2+ mobilization, resulting in interleukin-6 (IL-6) synthesis in osteoblast-like MC3T3-E1 cells. In the present study, we investigated the effect of bFGF on the release of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in these cells. bFGF stimulated VEGF release dose dependently in the range between 10 and 100 ng/ml. SB203580, an inhibitor of p38 MAP kinase, markedly enhanced the bFGF-induced VEGF release. bFGF induced the phosphorylation of both p42/p44 MAP kinase and p38 MAP kinase. PD98059, an inhibitor of upstream kinase of p42/p44 MAP kinase, reduced the VEGF release. SB203580 enhanced the phosphorylation of p42/p44 MAP kinase induced by bFGF. The enhancement by SB203580 of the bFGF-stimulated VEGF release was suppressed by PD98059. The depletion of extracellular Ca2+ by [ethylenebis-(oxyethylenenitrilo)]tetracetic acid (EGTA) or 1,2-bis-(O-aminophinoxy)-ethane-N,N,N,N-tetracetic acid tetracetoxymethyl ester (BAPTA/AM), a chelator of intracellular Ca2+, suppressed the bFGF-induced VEGF release. A23187, a Ca ionophore, or thapsigargin, known to induce Ca2+ release from intracellular Ca2+ store, stimulated the release of VEGF by itself. A23187 induced the phosphorylation of p42/p44 MAP kinase and p38 MAP kinase. PD98059 suppressed the VEGF release induced by A23187. SB203580 had little effect on either A23187-induced VEGF release or the phosphorylation of p42/p44 MAP kinase by A23187. These results strongly suggest that bFGF stimulates VEGF release through p42/p44 MAP kinase in osteoblasts and that the VEGF release is negatively regulated by bFGF-activated p38 MAP kinase.