MDP (muramyl dipeptide), a component of peptidoglycan, interacts with NOD2 (nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain 2) stimulating the NOD2-RIP2 (receptor-interacting protein 2) complex to activate signalling pathways important for antibacterial defence. Here we demonstrate that the protein kinase activity of RIP2 has two functions, namely to limit the strength of downstream signalling and to stabilize the active enzyme. Thus pharmacological inhibition of RIP2 kinase with either SB 203580 [a p38 MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) inhibitor] or the Src family kinase inhibitor PP2 induces a rapid and drastic decrease in the level of the RIP2 protein, which may explain why these RIP2 inhibitors block MDP-stimulated downstream signalling and the production of IL-1beta (interleukin-1beta) and TNFalpha (tumour necrosis factor-alpha). We also show that RIP2 induces the activation of the protein kinase TAK1 (transforming-growth-factor-beta-activated kinase-1), that a dominant-negative mutant of TAK1 inhibits RIP2-induced activation of JNK (c-Jun N-terminal kinase) and p38alpha MAPK, and that signalling downstream of NOD2 or RIP2 is reduced by the TAK1 inhibitor (5Z)-7-oxozeaenol or in TAK1-deficient cells. We also show that MDP activates ERK1 (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase 1)/ERK2 and p38alpha MAPK in human peripheral-blood mononuclear cells and that the activity of both MAPKs and TAK1 are required for MDP-induced signalling and production of IL-1beta and TNFalpha in these cells. Taken together, our results indicate that the MDP-NOD2/RIP2 and LPS (lipopolysaccharide)-TLR4 (Toll-like receptor 4) signalling pathways converge at the level of TAK1 and that many subsequent events that lead to the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines are common to both pathways.