Ischemia and reperfusion lead to the rapid induction of proto-oncogenes in the heart and subsequent induction of genes with cardioprotective functions. The activity of the transcription factors c-Jun and ATF-2 can be stimulated by activation of c-Jun amino-terminal kinase (JNK) in response to a variety of stresses. Here we show that ischemia and reperfusion led to the activation of JNK and also of the distantly-related mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK). Activation of JNK, but not (MAPK), was abolished by removal of calcium from the perfusate immediately prior to ischemia. In contrast, infusion of the hydrogen peroxide scavenger catalase abolished activation of MAPK in response to ischemia and reperfusion, but activation of JNK was inhibited significantly by catalase only when superoxide dismutase was also present. Hydrogen peroxide infusion activated MAPK but not JNK, supporting a role for hydrogen peroxide produced during reperfusion in MAPK activation. We conclude that while ischemia and reperfusion activate both JNK and MAPK, the mechanisms of activation are different for the 2 kinases. Activation of these kinases is likely to contribute to altered gene expression in response to ischemia and reperfusion.