Grape seed extract (GSE) from Italia, Palieri and Red Globe cultivars inhibits cell growth and induces apoptosis in Caco-2 human colon cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner. In order to investigate the mechanism(s) supporting the apoptotic process, we analysed reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, intracellular Ca2+ handling and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) activation. Upon exposure to GSE, ROS and intracellular Ca2+ levels increased in Caco-2 cells, concomitantly with ERK inactivation. As ERK activity is thought to be essential for promoting survival pathways, inhibition of this kinase is likely to play a relevant role in GSE-mediated anticancer effects. Indeed, pretreatment with N-acetyl cysteine, a ROS scavenger, reversed GSE-induced apoptosis, and promoted ERK phosphorylation. This effect was strengthened by ethylene glycol tetraacetic acid-mediated inhibition of extracellular Ca2+ influx. ROS and Ca2+ influx inhibition, in turn, increased ERK phosphorylation, and hence almost entirely suppressed GSE-mediated apoptosis. These data suggested that GSE triggers a previously unrecognised ERK-based mechanism, involving both ROS production and intracellular Ca2+ increase, eventually leading to apoptosis in cancer cells.