We have previously shown that the mitogenic effect of endothelin-1 (ET-1) in primary astrocytes is dependent on activation of both extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)- and cytoskeleton (CSK)-dependent pathways. In this study, we evaluated the contribution of each of these pathways to the expression and activation of proteins mediating cell cycle progression. Our results suggest that ET-1-induced expression of cyclins D1 and D3 is dependent on the ERK- and CSK-dependent pathways, respectively; moreover, a decrease in the levels of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor (CKI) p27 was observed as a consequence of ERK activation. Expression of both cyclins D1 and D3 together with a decrease in the p27 levels are essential for retinoblastoma protein (pRB) phosphorylation and cyclin A expression. Furthermore, the molecular events responsible for cell-cell contact inhibition of astrocyte proliferation were found to be independent of the mitogenic pathways leading to D-type cyclin expression. Cell growth arrest in confluent astrocytes was found to be correlated with increased expression of CKI p21, resulting in inhibition of D-type cyclin-associated pRB phosphorylation and cyclin A expression. Taken together, these results indicate that cyclins D1 and D3, which constitute the key mediators of the proliferative response of primary astrocytes to ET-1, are regulated by distinct signaling pathways.