Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) enhances urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) expression in ovarian cancer cells; however, the molecular mechanisms responsible for this event have not been investigated. In this study, we used the invasive ovarian cancer SK-OV-3 cell line to explore the signaling molecules and pathways essential for LPA-induced uPA up-regulation. With the aid of specific inhibitors and dominant negative forms of signaling molecules, we determined that the G(i)-associated pathway mediates this LPA-induced event. Moreover, constitutively active H-Ras and Raf-1-activating H-Ras mutant enhance uPA expression, whereas dominant negative H-Ras and Raf-1 block LPA-induced uPA up-regulation, suggesting that the Ras-Raf pathway works downstream of G(i) to mediate this LPA-induced process. Surprisingly, dominant negative MEK1 or Erk2 displays only marginal inhibitory effect on LPA-induced uPA up-regulation, suggesting that a signaling pathway distinct from Raf-MEK1/2-Erk is the prominent pathway responsible for this process. In this report, we demonstrate that LPA activates NF-kappaB in a Ras-Raf-dependent manner and that blocking NF-kappaB activation with either non-phosphorylable IkappaB or dominant negative IkappaB kinase abolished LPA-induced uPA up-regulation and uPA promoter activation. Furthermore, introducing mutations to knock out the NF-kappaB binding site of the uPA promoter results in over 80% reduction in LPA-induced uPA promoter activation, whereas this activity is largely intact with the promoter containing mutations in the AP1 binding sites. Thus these results suggest that the G(i)-Ras-Raf-NF-kappaB signaling cascade is responsible for LPA-induced uPA up-regulation in ovarian cancer cells.