Emerging evidence indicates that chemokines can regulate both the physiology and biochemistry of CNS neurons and glia. In the current study, Western blot analysis showed that in rat hippocampal neuronal/glial cultures the signal transduction pathway activated by CCL2, a chemokine expressed in the normal brain and at elevated levels during neuroinflammation, involves a G-protein coupled receptor, p38 MAPK as well as its immediate upstream kinase MKK3/6, and the downstream transcription factor CREB. ERK 1/2 and the transcription factors STAT1 and STAT3 do not play a prominent role. CCL2 also altered Ca(2+) influx and synaptic network activity in the hippocampal neurons. These results suggest an important role for p38 MAPK and CREB in hippocampal actions of CCL2.