A major function of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways is to control eukaryotic gene expression programmes in response to extracellular signals. MAPKs directly control gene expression by phosphorylating transcription factors. However, it is becoming clear that transcriptional regulation in response to MAPK signaling is more complex. MAPKs can also target coactivators and corepressors and affect nucleosomal structure by inducing histone modifications. Furthermore, multiple inputs into individual promoters can be elicited by MAPKs by targeting different components of the same coregulatory complex or by triggering different events on the same transcription factor. "Postgenomic approaches" are beginning to impact on our understanding of these gene regulatory networks. In this review, we summarise the current knowledge of MAPK-mediated gene regulation, and focus on how complexities in signaling outcomes are achieved and how this relates to physiological processes.