The role of nonproductive infection of astrocytes by human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), characterized by the overexpression of nef, in brain disease progression is largely unknown. We investigated the consequences of stable expression of nef from the HIV-1 strain LAI in the human astrocytic cell line U373. DNA synthesis induced by endothelin-1 (ET-1) was largely decreased by nef. Stable expression of nef did not affect the ET-1-induced tyrosine phosphorylation of focal adhesion kinase, an adhesion-dependent pathway known to participate in DNA synthesis in astrocytes. Conversely, the activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) by ET-1 was largely inhibited in cells stably or transiently expressing nef. A similar inhibitory action of nef on ERK activation was observed after direct stimulation of G proteins. Furthermore, the inhibitory action of nef did not require protein kinase C (PKC) and affected mainly the PKC-independent pathway of ERK activation. Following chemokine receptor CXCR4-mediated infection of U373 cells stably expressing CXCR4 with the T-tropic HIV-1 strain m7-NDK, ET-1-induced activation of ERK was also inhibited. Altogether, these results indicate that intracellular signaling pathways associated with the growth factor activity of ET-1 are impaired in nef-expressing and HIV-1-infected astrocytes, suggesting that infection of astrocytes may play a significant role in the neuropathogenesis of HIV-1 encephalopathy.