Toll-like receptors (TLRs) have been identified recently as crucial signaling receptors mediating the innate immune recognition. Though induction of TLR2 or TLR4 by 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol 13-acetate (TPA) in leukemia cells has been reported, however, the mechanism by which TPA up-regulates TLR2 or TLR4 remains poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the effect of TPA on induction of TLR2 in U937 cells. TPA markedly induced TLR2 mRNA and protein expressions. TLR2 expression in response to TPA was attenuated by pretreatments with GF109203X and Go6976 (inhibitors of protein kinase C (PKC)) and PD98059 (an inhibitor of extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERKs)), but not SB203580 (an inhibitor of p38s) and SP600125 (an inhibitor of c-Jun N-terminal kinases), suggesting involvement of PKC and ERKs in this response. Moreover, TPA-induced PKC activation was linked to generation of reactive oxygen species, which were dispensable for TLR2 expression in U937 cells. Pretreatments with GF109203X blocked TPA-induced phosphorylation of ERKs, suggesting activation of ERKs by PKC. In addition, TPA induced nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) activation, which was shown by increased nuclear translocation of p65 NF-kappaB and degradation of IkappaB-alpha, a NF-kappaB inhibitory protein. Importantly, TPA-induced TLR2 expression was inhibited by blockage of NF-kappaB activation using NF-kappaB inhibitors, including MG132 and BAY11-7085. Specifically, TPA-induced nuclear translocation of NF-kappaB was effectively attenuated by GF109203X and PD98059, suggesting PKC and ERK regulation of NF-kappaB nuclear localization in response to TPA. Together, these results suggest that TPA-induced TLR2 expression in U937 cells may be at least in part mediated through activation of PKC and ERKs as well as NF-kappaB transcription factor, and that cross-talk between PKC or ERKs and NF-kappaB may exist.