Sequential activation of protein kinases within the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades is a common mechanism of signal transduction in many cellular processes. Four such cascades have been elucidated thus far, and named according to their MAPK tier component as the ERK1/2, JNK, p38MAPK, and ERK5 cascades. These cascades cooperate in transmitting various extracellular signals, and thus control cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation, development, stress response, and apoptosis. Here we describe the classic ERK1/2 cascade, and concentrate mainly on the properties of MEK1/2 and ERK1/2, including their mode of regulation and their role in various cellular processes and in oncogenesis. This cascade may serve as a prototype of the other MAPK cascades, and the study of this cascade is likely to contribute to the understanding of mitogenic and other processes in many cell lines and tissues.