A new brain serine/threonine protein kinase may be a target for the p21ras-related proteins Cdc42 and Rac1. The kinase sequence is related to that of the yeast protein STE20, implicated in pheromone-response pathways. The kinase complexes specifically with activated (GTP-bound) p21, inhibiting p21 GTPase activity and leading to kinase autophosphorylation and activation. Autophosphorylated kinase has a decreased affinity for Cdc42/Rac, freeing the p21 for further stimulatory activities or downregulation by GTPase-activating proteins. This bimolecular interaction provides a model for studying p21 regulation of mammalian phosphorylation signalling pathways.