In this communication, we examined the role of the MAP kinase pathway in the G2/M phase of the cell cycle. Activation of the Plk1 and MAP kinase pathways was initially evaluated in FT210 cells, which arrest at G2 phase at the restrictive temperature (39 degrees C), due to a mutation in the cdc2 gene. Previous studies had shown that these cells enter mitosis at the nonpermissive temperature upon incubation with okadaic acid, a protein phosphatase 1 and 2A inhibitor. We show that treatment of FT210 cells at 39 degrees C with okadaic acid activated Plk1, as shown by hyperphosphorylation and elevated protein kinase activity, and also induced activation of the MAP kinase pathway. The specific Mek inhibitor PD98059 antagonized the okadaic acid-induced activation of both Plk1 and MAP kinases. This suggests that activation of the MAP kinase pathway may contribute to the okadaic acid-induced activation of Plk1 in FT210 cells at 39 degrees C. We also found that PD98059 strongly attenuated progression of HeLa cells through mitosis, and active Mek colocalizes with Plk1 at mitotic structures. To study the potential function of the MAP kinase pathway during mitosis, RNAi was used to specifically deplete five members of this pathway (Raf1, Mek1/2, Erk1/2). Each of these five protein kinases is required for cell proliferation and survival, and depletion of any of these proteins eventually leads to apoptosis. Treatment with Mek inhibitors also inhibited cell proliferation and caused apoptosis. A dramatic increase of Plk1 activities and a moderate increase of Cdc2 activities in Raf1-depleted cells indicate that Raf1-depleted cells arrest in the late G2 or M phase. Mek1 and Erk1 depletion also caused cell cycle arrest at G2, suggesting that these enzymes are required for the G2/M transition, whereas the loss of Mek2 or Erk2 caused arrest at G1.