In both starfish and amphibian oocytes, the activity of a major protein kinase which is independent of Ca2+ and cyclic nucleotides increases dramatically at meiotic and mitotic nuclear divisions. The in vivo substrates of this kinase are unknown, but phosphorylation of H1 histone can be used as an in vitro assay. We have purified this kinase from starfish oocytes. The major band in the most highly purified preparation contained a polypeptide of relative molecular mass (Mr) 34,000 (34K). This is the same size as the protein kinase encoded by cdc2+, which regulates entry into mitosis in fission yeast and is a component of MPF purified from Xenopus. Here, we show that antibodies against p34 recognize the starfish 34K protein and propose that entry into meiotic and mitotic nuclear divisions involves activation of the protein kinase encoded by a homologue of cdc2+. Given the wide occurrence of cdc2+ homologues from budding yeast to Xenopus and human cells, this activation may act as a common mechanism controlling entry into mitosis in eukaryotic cells.