This mini review is primarily concerned with the monovalent and divalent cation activation of pyruvate kinase. All preparations of pyruvate kinase from vertebrate tissue which have been examined require monovalent cations such as K+ for catalysis. However, several microbial preparations are not activated by monovalent cations. In fact, E. coli synthesize, depending on growth conditions, 2 different forms of the enzyme; one form is not activated while the other is activated by monovalent cations. The monovalent cation was shown by NMR techniques to bind within 4-8 A of the divalent cation activator and apparently plays a direct role in the catalytic process. As with all kinases, pyruvate kinase requires a divalent cation for catalysis. Mg+2 is optimal for the physiological reaction, however, Co+2, Mn+2, and Ni+2 also activate. The divalent cation activation of several non-physiological reactions catalyzed by pyruvate kinase are reviewed. Several lines of evidence suggest that 2 moles of the divalent cation are required in the catalytic event. However, the specific role of both atoms in the catalytic event have not been thoroughly elucidated.