Anisomycin, a translational inhibitor, synergizes with growth factors and phorbol esters to superinduce c-fos and c-jun by a number mechanisms, one of which is its ability to act as a potent signalling agonist, producing strong, prolonged activation of the same nuclear responses as epidermal growth factor or tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate. These responses include the phosphorylation of pp33, which exists in complexed and chromatin-associated forms, and of histone H3 and an HMG-like protein. By peptide mapping and microsequencing, we show here that pp33 is the phosphoprotein S6, present in ribosomes and in preribosomes in the nucleolus. Ablation of epidermal growth factor-, tetradecanoyl phorbol acetate-, or anisomycin-stimulated S6 phosphorylation by using the p70/85(S6k) inhibitor rapamycin has no effect on histone H3 and HMG-like protein phosphorylation or on the induction and superinduction of c- fos and c-jun. Further, [35S]methionine-labelling and immunoprecipitation studies show that the ablation of S6 phosphorylation has no discernible effect on translation in general or translation of newly induced c-fos transcripts. Finally, we show that anisomycin augments and prolongs S6 phosphorylation not by blocking S6 phosphatases but by sustained activation of p70/85(S6k). These results suggest the possible use of anisomycin and rapamycin to define upstream and downstream boundaries of an area of signalling above p70/85(S6k) which contains a bifurcation that produces histone H3-HMG-like protein phosphorylation and c-fos-c-jun induction in the nucleus.