The Arabidopsis thaliana ARAKIN (ATMEKK1) gene shows strong homology to members of the (MAP) mitogen-activated protein kinase family, and was previously shown to functionally complement a mating defect in Saccharomyces cerevisiae at the level of the MEKK kinase ste11. The yeast STE11 is an integral component of two MAP kinase cascades: the mating pheromone pathway and the HOG (high osmolarity glycerol response) pathway. The HOG signal transduction pathway is activated by osmotic stress and causes increased glycerol synthesis. Here, we first demonstrate that ATMEKK1 encodes a protein with kinase activity, examine its properties in yeast MAP kinase cascades, then examine its expression under stress in A. thaliana. Yeast cells expressing the A. thaliana ATMEKK1 survive and grow under high salt (NaCl) stress, conditions that kill wild-type cells. Enhanced glycerol production, observed in non-stressed cells expressing ATMEKK1 is the probable cause of yeast survival. Downstream components of the HOG response pathway, HOG1 and PBS2, are required for ATMEKK1-mediated yeast survival. Because ATMEKK1 functionally complements the sho1/ssk2/ssk22 triple mutant, it appears to function at the level of the MEKK kinase step of the HOG response pathway. In A. thaliana, ATMEKK1 expression is rapidly (within 5 min) induced by osmotic (NaCl) stress. This is the same time frame for osmoticum-induced effects on the electrical properties of A. thaliana cells, both an immediate response and adaptation. Therefore, we propose that the A. thaliana ATMEKK1 may be a part of the signal transduction pathway involved in osmotic stress.