c-jun-N-Terminal kinase 3alpha1 (JNK3alpha1) is a mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase family member expressed primarily in the brain that phosphorylates protein transcription factors including c-jun and activating transcription factor 2 (ATF2) upon activation by a variety of stress-based stimuli. In this study, the kinetic mechanism for JNK3alpha1 was determined via initial velocity patterns in the presence and absence of both ATP and ATF2 competitive inhibitors. Peptide inhibitors from both ATF2 (peptide 1) and JNK-interacting protein 1 (JIP-1) (peptide 3), derived from the homologous delta-domain JNK docking sequence, inhibited JNK3alpha1 activity in a competitive fashion versus ATF2 while being pure noncompetitive toward ATP. In contrast, peptides derived from the phosphoacceptor activation domain on ATF2 (peptides 4 and 5) were recognized neither as substrates nor as inhibitors of JNK3alpha1. AMP-PCP and compound 6, a small molecule analinopyrimidine, exhibited pure noncompetitive inhibition versus ATF2 and competitive inhibition versus ATP. Peptide inhibitors based on the delta-domain sites of JIP ( 3) and ATF2 ( 1) were not recognized by p38, also of the MAPK family, which may give insight into finding more selective inhibitors for the JNK family of kinases. Collectively these data showed that JNK3alpha1 proceeded by a random sequential kinetic mechanism and that the ATP and ATF2 substrate sites were non-interacting. Moreover, these results established the 11-mer JIP peptide ( 3) as a potent ( K i = 25 +/- 6 nM) competitive inhibitor versus ATF2 in JNK3alpha1.