Overexpression of urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) and its receptor (uPAR) has been well documented in a wide variety of tumor cells. In breast cancer, expression of uPA/uPAR is essential for tumor cell invasion and metastasis. However, the mechanism responsible for uPA/uPAR expression in cancer cells remains unclear. In the studies reported here, we show that endogenous p38 MAPK activity correlates well with breast carcinoma cell invasiveness. Treatment of highly invasive BT549 cells with a specific p38 MAPK inhibitor SB203580 diminished both uPA/uPAR mRNA and protein expression and abrogated the ability of these cells to invade matrigel, suggesting that p38 MAPK signaling pathway is involved in the regulation of uPA/uPAR expression and breast cancer cell invasion. We also demonstrated that SB203580-induced reduction in uPA/uPAR mRNA expression resulted from the de- stabilization of uPA and uPAR mRNA. Finally, by selectively inhibiting p38alpha or p38beta MAPK isoforms, we demonstrate that p38alpha, rather than p38beta, MAPK activity is essential for uPA/uPAR expression. These studies suggest that p38alpha MAPK signaling pathway is important for the maintenance of breast cancer invasive phenotype by promoting the stabilities of uPA and uPAR mRNA.