The increasing number of reports describing plant MAP kinase signalling components reflects the cardinal role that MAP kinase pathways are likely to play during plant growth and development. Relationship and structural analyses of plant MAP kinase kinase kinase related cDNAs and genes established, on one hand, the PMEKKs, which may be distinguished into the alpha, beta, gamma, and zeta groups, and, on the other hand, the PRAFs that consist of the delta, eta and theta groups. Plant MAP3Ks are characterized by different primary structures, but conserved within a single group. A relationship analysis, which included animal, fungal and plant MAP3Ks, revealed a high degree of diversity among this biochemically established set of proteins, thus suggesting a range of biological functions. Four major families emerged, namely the MEKK/STE11, including the PMEKKs, the RAF, including the PRAFs, as well as the MLK and CDC7 families. These four families showed phylum-dependent distributions. Signature sequences characterizing the RAF family and the RAF subfamilies have been evidenced. However, no equivalent sequence motifs were identified for the MEKK/STE11 family, which is highly heterogeneous.