The infection process of Colletotrichum lagenarium, the causal agent of cucumber anthracnose disease, involves several key steps: germination; formation of melanized appressoria; appressorial penetration; and subsequent invasive growth in host plants. Here we report that the C. lagenarium CMK1 gene encoding a mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase plays a central role in these infection steps. CMK1 can complement appressorium formation of the Pmk1 MAP kinase mutant of Magnaporthe grisea. Deletion of CMK1 causes reduction of conidiation and complete lack of pathogenicity to the host plant. Surprisingly, in contrast to M. grisea pmk1 mutants, conidia of cmk1 mutants fail to germinate on both host plant and glass surfaces, demonstrating that the CMK1 MAP kinase regulates conidial germination. However, addition of yeast extract rescues germination, indicating the presence of a CMK1-independent pathway for regulation of conidial germination. Germinating conidia of cmk1 mutants fail to form appressoria and the mutants are unable to grow invasively in the host plant. This strongly suggests that MAP kinase signaling pathways have general significance for infection structure formation and pathogenic growth in phytopathogenic fungi. Furthermore, three melanin genes show no or slight expression in the cmk1 mutant when conidia fail to germinate, suggesting that CMK1 plays a role in gene expression required for appressorial melanization.