Ribosomal S6 kinase 2 (S6K2) is a recently identified serine/threonine protein kinase that phosphorylates the 40 S ribosomal protein S6 in vitro. S6K2 is highly homologous to S6K1 in the core kinase and linker regulatory domains but differs from S6K1 in the N- and C-terminal regions and is differently localized primarily to the nucleus because of a C-terminal nuclear localization signal unique to S6K2. We have recently demonstrated that S6K2 is regulated similarly to S6K1 by the mammalian target of rapamycin pathway and by multiple PI3-K pathway effectors in vivo. However, deletion of the C-terminal domain of S6K2 enhances kinase activity, whereas analogous deletion of S6K1 is inhibitory. Here, we characterize the S6K2 C-terminal motifs that confer this differential regulation. We demonstrate that the inhibitory effects of the S6K2 C-terminal domain are only partly attributable to the nuclear localization signal but that three C-terminal proline-directed potential mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphorylation sites are critical mediators of this inhibitory effect. Site-specific mutation of these sites to alanine completely desensitizes S6K2 to activating inputs, whereas mutation to aspartic acid to mimic phosphorylation results in an activated enzyme which is hypersensitive to activating inputs. Pretreatment of cells with the mitogen-activated protein-extracellular signal-regulated kinase kinase (MEK) inhibitor U0126 inhibited S6K2 activation to a greater extent than S6K1. Furthermore, S6K2 mutants with C-terminal deletion or acidic phosphorylation site mutations displayed greatly reduced U0126 sensitivity. Thus, MEK-dependent inputs to C-terminal phosphorylation sites appear to be essential for relief of S6K2 inhibition but less critical for activation of S6K1. These data suggest a mechanism by which weak PI3-K agonists can regulate S6 phosphorylation and selective translation in the presence of mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling.