In an effort to characterize the signal transduction mechanisms that operate to regulate homeodomain protein function, we have analyzed the phosphorylation state of two homeodomain proteins, Hoxb-6 and Hoxc-8, in vitro and in vivo. The baculovirus expression system was employed to demonstrate that Hoxb-6 is phosphorylated in Sf9 cells while Hoxc-8 is not. Using two-dimensional tryptic phosphopeptide mapping and purified protein kinases, we demonstrate that Hoxb-6 is phosphorylated in vitro by casein kinase II and cAMP-dependent protein kinase. The casein kinase II phosphorylation site was mapped to serine-214. Two-dimensional tryptic phosphopeptide mapping of immunoprecipitated Hoxb-6 from mouse embryonic spinal cords demonstrates that the same peptide phosphorylated in vitro and in Sf9 cells by casein kinase II is also phosphorylated in vivo. The conservation of this site in several homeodomain proteins from various species is discussed.