Recent studies have indicated that serine phosphorylation regulates the activities of STAT1 and STAT3. However, the kinase(s) responsible and the role of serine phosphorylation in STAT function remain unresolved. In the present studies, we examined the growth factor-dependent serine phosphorylation of STAT1 and STAT3. We provide in vitro and in vivo evidence that the ERK family of mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases, but not JNK or p38, specifically phosphorylate STAT3 at serine 727 in response to growth factors. Evidence for additional mitogen-regulated serine phosphorylation is also provided. STAT1 is a relatively poor substrate for all MAP kinases tested both in vitro and in vivo. STAT3 serine phosphorylation, not its tyrosine phosphorylation, results in retarded mobility of the STAT3 protein on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. Importantly, serine 727 phosphorylation negatively modulates STAT3 tyrosine phosphorylation, which is required for dimer formation, nuclear translocation, and the DNA binding activity of this transcriptional regulator. Interestingly, the cytokine interleukin-6 also stimulates STAT3 serine phosphorylation, but in contrast to growth factors, this occurs by an ERK-independent process.