Conventional treatment of chronic inflammatory disorders, including inflammatory bowel diseases, employs broad-range anti-inflammatory drugs. In order to reduce the side-effects and increase the efficacy of treatment, several strategies have been developed in the last decade to interfere with intercellular and intracellular inflammatory signalling processes. The highly conserved mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways regulate most cellular processes, particularly defence mechanisms such as stress reactions and inflammation. In this review, we provide an overview of the current knowledge of the specificity and interconnection of mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways, their functions in the gut immune system and published and ongoing studies on the role of mitogen-activated protein kinases in inflammatory bowel disease. The development of mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibitors and their use for the therapy of inflammatory disorders is a paradigm of the successful bridging of the gap between basic research and clinical practice.