CD44, an adhesion molecule, has been reported to be a binding site for Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis) in macrophages and it also mediates mycobacterial phagocytosis, macrophage recruitment and protective immunity against pulmonary tuberculosis in vivo. However, the signalling pathways that are involved in M. tuberculosis–induced CD44 surface expression in monocytic cells are currently unknown. Exposure of THP-1 human monocytes to M. tuberculosis H37Rv and H37Ra induced distinct, time-dependent, phosphorylation of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase-1, extracellular signal regulated kinase 1/2, mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 3/6, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and c-jun N-terminal kinases. The strains also differed in their usage of CD14 and human leukocyte antigen-DR (HLA-DR) receptors in mediating mitogen-activated protein kinase activation. M. tuberculosis H37Rv strain induced lower CD44 surface expression and tumour necrosis factor-alpha levels, whereas H37Ra the reverse. Using highly specific inhibitors of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase-1, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and c-jun N-terminal kinase, we report that inhibition of extracellular signal regulated kinase 1/2 and c-jun N-terminal kinases increases, but that inhibition of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase decreases M. tuberculosis–induced CD44 surface expression in THP-1 human monocytes.