90-kDa ribosomal S6 kinase-2 (RSK2) belongs to a family of growth factor-activated serine/threonine kinases composed of two kinase domains connected by a regulatory linker region. The N-terminal kinase of RSK2 is involved in substrate phosphorylation. Its activation requires phosphorylation of the linker region at Ser(369), catalyzed by extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and at Ser(386), catalyzed by the C-terminal kinase, after its activation by ERK. In addition, the N-terminal kinase must be phosphorylated at Ser(227) in the activation loop by an as yet unidentified kinase. Here, we show that the isolated N-terminal kinase of RSK2 (amino acids 1-360) is phosphorylated at Ser(227) by PDK1, a constitutively active kinase, leading to 100-fold stimulation of kinase activity. In COS7 cells, ectopic PDK1 induced the phosphorylation of full-length RSK2 at Ser(227) and Ser(386), without involvement of ERK, leading to partial activation of RSK2. Similarly, two other members of the RSK family, RSK1 and RSK3, were partially activated by PDK1 in COS7 cells. Finally, our data indicate that full activation of RSK2 by growth factor requires the cooperation of ERK and PDK1 through phosphorylation of Ser(227), Ser(369), and Ser(386). Our study extend recent findings which implicate PDK1 in the activation of protein kinases B and C and p70(S6K), suggesting that PDK1 controls several major growth factor-activated signal transduction pathways.