Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are important signaling tools in all eukaryotes, and function in mediating an enormous variety of external signals to appropriate cellular responses. MAPK pathways have been studied extensively in yeast and mammalian cells, and a large body of knowledge on their functioning has accumulated, which is summarized briefly. Plant MAPK pathways have attracted increasing interest, resulting in the isolation of a large number of different components of MAPK cascades. Studies on the functions of these components have revealed that MAPKs play important roles in the response to a broad variety of stresses, as well as in the signaling of most plant hormones and in developmental processes. Finally, the involvement of various plant phosphatases in the inactivation of MAPKs is discussed.