We have examined the roles of type-1 (PP-1) and type-2A (PP-2A) protein-serine/threonine phosphatases in the mechanism of activation of p34cdc2/cyclin B protein kinase in Xenopus egg extracts. p34cdc2/cyclin B is prematurely activated in the extracts by inhibition of PP-2A by okadaic acid but not by specific inhibition of PP-1 by inhibitor-2. Activation of the kinase can be blocked by addition of the purified catalytic subunit of PP-2A at a twofold excess over the activity in the extract. The catalytic subunit of PP-1 can also block kinase activation, but very high levels of activity are required. Activation of p34cdc2/cyclin B protein kinase requires dephosphorylation of p34cdc2 on Tyr15. This reaction is catalysed by cdc25-C phosphatase that is itself activated by phosphorylation. We show that, in interphase extracts, inhibition of PP-2A by okadaic acid completely blocks cdc25-C dephosphorylation, whereas inhibition of PP-1 by specific inhibitors has no effect. This indicates that a type-2A protein phosphatase negatively regulates p34cdc2/cyclin B protein kinase activation primarily by maintaining cdc25-C phosphatase in a dephosphorylated, low activity state. In extracts containing active p34cdc2/cyclin B protein kinase, dephosphorylation of cdc25-C is inhibited, whereas the activity of PP-2A (and PP-1) towards other substrates is unaffected. We propose that this specific inhibition of cdc25-C dephosphorylation is part of a positive feedback loop that also involves direct phosphorylation and activation of cdc25-C by p34cdc2/cyclin B. Dephosphorylation of cdc25-C is also inhibited when cyclin A-dependent protein kinase is active, and this may explain the potentiation of p34cdc2/cyclin B protein kinase activation by cyclin A. In extracts supplemented with nuclei, the block on p34cdc2/cyclin B activation by unreplicated DNA is abolished when PP-2A is inhibited or when stably phosphorylated cdc25-C is added, but not when PP-1 is specifically inhibited. This suggests that unreplicated DNA inhibits p34cdc2/cyclin B activation by maintaining cdc25-C in a low activity, dephosphorylated state, probably by keeping the activity of a type-2A protein phosphatase towards cdc25-C at a high level.