Mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase phosphatase 1 (MKP-1) has been shown to play a critical role in mediating the feedback control of MAP kinase cascades in a variety of cellular processes, including proliferation and stress responsiveness. Although MKP-1 expression is induced by a broad array of extracellular stimuli, the mechanisms mediating its induction remain poorly understood. Here we show that MKP-1 mRNA was potently induced by arsenite and ultraviolet light and modestly increased by heat shock and hydrogen peroxide. Interestingly, arsenite also dramatically induces phosphorylation-acetylation of histone H3 at a global level which precedes the induction of MKP-1 mRNA. The transcriptional induction of MKP-1, histone H3 modification, and elevation in MKP-1 mRNA in response to arsenite are all partially prevented by the p38 MAP kinase inhibitor SB203580, suggesting that the p38 pathway is involved in these processes. Finally, analysis of the DNA brought down by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) reveals that arsenite induces phosphorylation-acetylation of histone H3 associated with the MKP-1 gene and enhances binding of RNA polymerase II to MKP-1 chromatin. ChIP assays following exposure to other stress agents reveal various degrees of histone H3 modification at the MKP-1 chromatin. The differential contribution of p38 and ERK MAP kinases in mediating MKP-1 induction by different stress agents further illustrates the complexity and versatility of stress-induced MKP-1 expression. Our results strongly suggest that chromatin remodeling after stress contributes to the transcriptional induction of MKP-1.