The p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade is an evolutionarily conserved signalling mechanism involved in processes as diverse as apoptosis, cell fate determination, immune function and stress response. Aberrant p38 signalling has been implicated in many human diseases, including heart disease, cancer, arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases. To further understand the role of p38 in these processes, we generated a Drosophila strain that is null for the D-p38a gene. Mutants are homozygous viable and show no observable developmental defects. However, flies lacking D-p38a are susceptible to some environmental stresses, including heat shock, oxidative stress and starvation. These phenotypes only partially overlap those caused by mutations in D-MEKK1 and dTAK1, suggesting that the D-p38a gene is required to mediate some, but not all, of the functions ascribed to p38 signalling.