Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), Interleukin- 3 (IL-3), and Steel Factor (SF) induce proliferation of hematopoietic cells through binding to specific, high-affinity, cell surface receptors. However, little is known about postreceptor signal transduction pathways. In previous studies, we noted that each of these three factors could independently support proliferation of the human MO7 cell line, and also that each factor induced a rapid increase in protein-tyrosyl phosphorylation. Although the proteins phosphorylated on tyrosine by GM-CSF and IL-3 are similar or identical in MO7 cells, many of the proteins that are phosphorylated on tyrosine after SF are different. However, two proteins, p42 and p44, were prominently phosphorylated in response to all three of the factors. In MO7 cells, the tyrosyl phosphorylation of p42 and p44 was transient, peaking at 5 to 15 minutes. In contrast to many of the other proteins which are tyrosyl phosphorylated in response to these factors, phosphorylation of p42 and p44 was temperature-dependent, occurring at 37 degrees C, but not at 4 degrees C. We identified the p42 protein as p42 Mitogen- Activated Protein Kinase (p42mapk, ERK-2) and the p44 as a p42mapk- related protein using monospecific antisera to MAP kinase. GM-CSF, IL- 3, and SF were each found to induce MAP kinase activity when assayed in vitro using myelin basic protein (MBP) as a substrate. Remarkably, we found that GM-CSF-induced tyrosyl phosphorylation of p42 and p44 even in nonproliferative cells (neutrophils) that respond to this CSF, and that p42 and p44 were two of the most prominently tyrosyl phosphorylated proteins following GM-CSF stimulation of these cells. These results implicate p42mapk and p44 as important signal transducing molecules in myeloid cells, and it is likely that these kinases play a role as part of a sequential “kinase cascade” linking growth factor receptors to mitogenesis and other cellular responses.