In recent years the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase family has expanded to include both c-jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs), and the p38/HOG1 family in addition to the extracellular regulated kinase (ERK) family. These kinases are activated by a variety of growth factors, as well as extra- and intracellular insults such as osmotic stress, UV light, and chemotherapeutic agents. Stimulation of the PRL-dependent Nb2 cell line with PRL results in the rapid activation of JNK as determined by the glutathione-S-transferase (GST)-jun kinase assay. Activation was maximal 30 min after stimulation with 50 nM rat PRL (rPRL) and decreased after that time. Dose response studies indicated that concentrations as low as 10 nM rPRL resulted in maximal activation. The interleukin-3 (IL-3)-dependent myeloid progenitor cell line 32Dcl3 was transfected with the long, Nb2, and short forms of the rat PRL receptor (rPRLR), as well as the long form of the human PRLR (hPRLR). The long and Nb2 forms of the PRLR were able to stimulate activation of JNK; however, the short form of the rPRLR was not. This corresponds with the inability of the short form of the rPRLR to stimulate proliferation of 32Dcl3 cells. Activation of JNK in 32Dcl3 cells expressing the long form of the hPRLR was maximal at 30 min after stimulation with 100 nM ovine PRL (oPRL) and declined after that time. Dose response studies indicated that activation of JNK was maximal after 30 min at a concentration of 10 nM, and the amount of activated JNK declined at the highest concentration of oPRL, 100 nM. Immunoblot analysis with an antibody that recognizes the activated (phosphorylated) forms of JNK1 and JNK2 indicated that both JNK1 and JNK2 isoforms were activated in 32D/hPRLR cells stimulated with oPRL. A recombinant human adenovirus expressing a kinase-inactive mutant of JNK1 (APF mutant) was used to determine the biological effect of blocking JNK activity in Nb2 cells. Expression of the JNK1-APF mutant inhibited cellular proliferation and induced DNA fragmentation typical of cells undergoing apoptosis. These data suggest that activation of JNKs may be important in mitogenic signaling and/or suppression of apoptosis in Nb2 cells.