The magnitude and duration of signalling through mitogen- and stress-activated kinases are critical determinants of biological effect. This reflects a balance between the activities of upstream activators and a complex regulatory network of protein phosphatases. These mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatases include both dual-specificity (threonine/tyrosine) and tyrosine-specific enzymes, and recent evidence suggests that a single mitogen-activated protein kinase isoform may be acted upon by both classes of protein phosphatase. In both cases, substrate selectivity is determined by specific protein-protein interactions mediated through noncatalytic amino-terminal mitogen-activated protein kinase binding domains. Future challenges include the determination of exactly how this network of protein phosphatases interacts selectively with mitogen-activated protein kinase signalling complexes to achieve precise regulation of these key pathways in mammalian cells.