MAP (mitogen-activated protein) kinases are serine/threonine protein kinases and mediate intracellular phosphorylation events linking various extracellular signals to different cellular targets. MAP kinase, MAP kinase kinase and MAP kinase kinase kinase are functional protein kinase units that are conserved in several signal transduction pathways in animals and yeasts. Isolation of all three components was also shown in plants and suggests conservation of a protein kinase module in all eukaryotic cells. In plants, MAP kinase modules appear to be involved in ethylene signaling and auxin-induced cell proliferation. Therefore, coupling of different extracellular signals to different physiological responses is mediated by MAP kinase cascades and appears to have evolved from a single prototypical protein kinase module which has been adapted to the specific requirements of different organisms.