The Gram-negative bacterium Xanthomonas euvesicatoria (Xe) is the causal agent of bacterial spot disease of pepper and tomato. Xe delivers effector proteins into host cells through the type III secretion system to promote disease. Here, we show that the Xe effector XopAU, which is conserved in numerous Xanthomonas species, is a catalytically active protein kinase and contributes to the development of disease symptoms in pepper plants. Agrobacterium-mediated expression of XopAU in host and non-host plants activated typical defense responses, including MAP kinase phosphorylation, accumulation of pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins and elicitation of cell death, that were dependent on the kinase activity of the effector. XopAU-mediated cell death was not dependent on early signaling components of effector-triggered immunity and was also observed when the effector was delivered into pepper leaves by Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris, but not by Xe. Protein-protein interaction studies in yeast and in planta revealed that XopAU physically interacts with components of plant immunity-associated MAP kinase cascades. Remarkably, XopAU directly phosphorylated MKK2 in vitro and enhanced its phosphorylation at multiple sites in planta. Consistent with the notion that MKK2 is a target of XopAU, silencing of MKK2 or overexpression of the catalytically inactive mutant MKK2K99Rin N. benthamiana plants reduced XopAU-mediated cell death and MAPK phosphorylation. Furthermore, yeast co-expressing XopAU and MKK2 displayed reduced growth and this phenotype was dependent on the kinase activity of both proteins. Together, our results support the conclusion that XopAU contributes to Xe disease symptoms in pepper plants and manipulates host MAPK signaling through phosphorylation and activation of MKK2.