Mammalian cells respond to their immediate environment by inducing signal transduction cascades that regulate metabolism, secretion and gene expression. Several of these signalling pathways are structurally and organizationally related insofar as they require activation of a protein-serine kinase via it's phosphorylation on tyrosine and threonine; the archetype being mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) which responds primarily to mitogenic stimuli via Ras. In contrast, two more recently identified cascades are responsive to cellular stresses such as heat, inflammatory cytokines, ischaemia and metabolic poisons. The recent identification of the components of these pathways has allowed manipulation of the stress-responsive pathways and evaluation of their physiological roles. These studies reveal a high degree of independence between the pathways not apparent from in vitro studies. Manipulation of the pathways in vivo will likely result in novel therapies for inflammatory disease and reperfusion injury.