In this study, we defined the signaling cascade responsible for increased eNOS mRNA expression in response to laminar shear stress. This pathway depends on the tyrosine kinase c-Src because shear induction of eNOS mRNA is blocked by the c-Src inhibitors PP1 and PP2, as well as an adenovirus encoding kinase inactive c-Src. After activation of c-Src, this pathway diverges. One arm is responsible for the short-term (6 hour) increase in eNOS mRNA. This involves a transient, 1-hour increase in eNOS transcription, as detected by nuclear run-on, that is dependent on activation of Ras and is blocked by adenoviral infection with dominant negative Ras. Downstream of Ras, MEK1/2 and ERK1/2 are important in this pathway, as 2 inhibitors of MEK1/2, PD98059 and UO126, completely prevented this early increase in eNOS mRNA. ERK1/2 was rapidly phosphorylated in response to shear, and this was prevented by c-Src and Ras inhibition. Further, Raf is phosphorylated in response to shear stress, and this is prevented by c-Src inhibition, suggesting that Raf may transduce the signal between Ras and ERK1/2. The second arm of the pathway linking activation of c-Src to eNOS expression involves stabilization of eNOS mRNA by shear stress. This response to shear is completely abrogated by the c-Src inhibitor PP1 but not altered by Ras or MEK1/2 inhibition. Thus, c-Src plays a central role in modulation of eNOS expression in response to shear stress via divergent pathways involving a short-term increase in eNOS transcription and a longer-term stabilization of eNOS mRNA.