The sympathetic nervous system regulates the activity and expression of uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) through the three beta-adrenergic receptor subtypes and their ability to raise intracellular cyclic AMP (cAMP) levels. Unexpectedly, we recently discovered that the cAMP-dependent regulation of multiple genes in brown adipocytes, including Ucp1, occurred through the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) (W. Cao, K. W. Daniel, J. Robidoux, P. Puigserver, A. V. Medvedev, X. Bai, L. M. Floering, B. M. Spiegelman, and S. Collins, Mol. Cell. Biol. 24:3057-3067, 2004). However, no well-defined pathway linking cAMP accumulation or cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) to p38 MAPK has been described. Therefore, in the present study using both in vivo and in vitro models, we have initiated a retrograde approach to define the required components, beginning with the p38 MAPK isoforms themselves and the MAP kinase kinase(s) that regulates them. Our strategy included ectopic expression of wild-type and mutant kinases as well as targeted inhibition of gene expression using small interfering RNA. The results indicate that the beta-adrenergic receptors and PKA lead to a highly selective activation of the p38alpha isoform of MAPK, which in turn promotes Ucp1 gene transcription. In addition, this specific activation of p38alpha relies solely on the presence of MAP kinase kinase 3, despite the expression in brown fat of MKK3, -4, and -6. Finally, of the three scaffold proteins of the JIP family expressed in brown adipocytes, only JIP2 co-immunoprecipitates p38alpha MAPK and MKK3. Therefore, in the brown adipocyte the recently described scaffold protein JIP2 assembles the required factors MKK3 and p38alpha MAPK linking PKA to the control of thermogenic gene expression.