1. The growth hormone secretagogue receptor 1a (GHSR-1a) is a G-protein coupled receptor, involved in the biological actions of ghrelin by triggering inositol phosphates and calcium intracellular second messengers. It has also been reported that ghrelin could activate the 44- and 42-kDa extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases (ERK1/2) in different cell lines, but it is not clear whether this regulation is GHSR-1a dependent or not. 2. To provide direct evidence for the coupling of GHSR-1a to ERK1/2 activation, this pathway has been studied in a heterologous expression system. 3. Thus, in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells we showed that ghrelin induced, via the human GHSR-1a, a transient and dose-dependent activation of ERK1/2 leading to activation of the transcriptional factor Elk1. 4. We then investigated the precise mechanisms involved in GHSR-1a-mediated ERK1/2 activation using various specific inhibitors and dominant-negative mutants and found that internalization of GHSR-1a was not necessary. Our results also indicate that phospholipase C (PLC) was involved in GHSR-1a-mediated ERK1/2 activation, however, pathways like tyrosine kinases, including Src, and phosphoinositide 3-kinases were not found to be involved. GHSR-1a-mediated ERK1/2 activation was abolished both by a general protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor, Gö6983, and by PKC depletion using overnight pretreatment with phorbol ester. Moreover, the calcium chelator, BAPTA-AM, and the inhibitor of conventional PKCs, Gö6976, had no effect on the GHSR-1a-mediated ERK1/2 activation, suggesting the involvement of novel PKC isoforms (ε, δ), but not conventional or atypical PKCs. Further analyses suggest that PKCε is required for the activation of ERK1/2. 5. Taken together, these data suggest that ghrelin, through GHSR-1a, activates the Elk1 transcriptional factor and ERK1/2 by a PLC- and PKCε-dependent pathway.