Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) is a major downstream factor of the EGFR-RAS-RAF signalling pathway, and thus the role of ERK in cell growth has been widely examined. The development of biosensors based on fluorescent proteins has enabled us to measure ERK activities in living cells, both after growth factor stimulation and in its absence. Long-term imaging unexpectedly revealed the oscillative activation of ERK in an epithelial sheet or a cyst in vitro. Studies using transgenic mice expressing the ERK biosensor have revealed inhomogeneous ERK activities among various cell species. In vivo Förster (or fluorescence) resonance energy transfer (FRET) imaging shed light on a novel role of ERK in cell migration. Neutrophils and epithelial cells in various organs such as intestine, skin, lung and bladder showed spatio-temporally different cell dynamics and ERK activities. Experiments using inhibitors confirmed that ERK activities are required for various pathological responses, including epithelial repair after injuries, inflammation, and niche formation of cancer metastasis. In conclusion, biosensors for ERK will be powerful and valuable tools to investigate the roles of ERK in situ.