Accumulating evidence suggests an important role for cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) in the pathogenesis of a wide range of malignancies. Here we tested the hypothesis that the COX-2 product prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) increases cellular invasive potential by inducing matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) expression and activity through an extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)/Ets-1-dependent mechanism in pancreatic cancer. PANC-1 and MIAPaCa-2 pancreatic cancer cells were treated with PGE(2) or rofecoxib, a selective COX-2 inhibitor. MMP-2 expression and activity were assayed using Western blot analysis and zymography, respectively. MMP-2 promoter activity was analyzed with a luciferase-based assay. Ets-1 activity was analyzed using gel shift assay. Ets-1 expression was specifically silenced using RNA interference. Cellular invasive and migratory potentials were determined using a Boyden chamber assay with or without Matrigel, respectively. Exogenous PGE(2) induced MMP-2 expression and activity and increased ERK1/2 phosphorylation, Ets-1 binding activity, and MMP-2 promoter activity. PGE(2) also increased cellular migratory and invasive potentials. The mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase inhibitor PD98059 and Ets-1 silencing each abolished PGE(2)-induced increases in MMP-2 expression. PD98059 and Ets-1 silencing each abrogated the effect of PGE(2) on cellular invasive potential but not on cellular migratory potential. Rofecoxib suppressed MMP-2 expression and activity, Ets-1 binding activity, MMP-2 promoter activity, and cellular migratory and invasive potentials. These results suggest that PGE(2) mediates pancreatic cancer cellular invasiveness through an ERK/Ets-1-dependent induction of MMP-2 expression and activity. They also suggest that COX-2 inhibition may represent a strategy to inhibit invasive potential in pancreatic cancer.