Synovial fluid basic calcium phosphate (BCP) crystals are common in osteoarthritis and are often associated with destructive arthropathies involving cartilage degeneration. These crystals are mitogenic and induce oncogene expression and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) synthesis and secretion in human fibroblasts. To date, BCP crystal-elicited signal transduction pathways have not been completely studied. Because protein kinase C (PKC) is known to play an important role in signal transduction, we investigated the participation of this pathway in the BCP crystal induction of MMP-1 and MMP-3 mRNA and protein expressions in human fibroblasts. Using reverse transcription/polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Northern and Western blotting techniques, we show here that BCP crystal stimulation of MMP-1 and MMP-3 mRNA and protein expressions in human fibroblasts is dependent upon the calcium-dependent PKC signal transduction pathway and that the PKC alpha isozyme is specifically involved in the pathway. We have previously shown that BCP crystal induction of MMP-1 and MMP-3 is also dependent on the p44/42 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p44/42 MAPK) signal transduction pathway. We now show that these two pathways operate independently and seem to complement each other. This leads to our hypothesis that the two pathways initially function independently, ultimately leading to an increase in mitogenesis and MMP synthesis, and may converge downstream of PKC and p44/42 MAPK to mediate BCP crystal-induced cellular responses.