In cultured XD6S tobacco cells, xylanase from Trichoderma viride (TvX) induced the expression of a luciferase reporter gene that was under the control of a GCC box, which is an 11 bp sequence (TAAGAGCCGCC) that is found in the 5'-upstream region of pathogen-responsive defence genes that include genes for class I basic chitinase. TvX-induced biosynthesis of ethylene was not required for the TvX-activated transcription. The TvX-induced, GCC box-mediated transcription of the reporter gene was completely blocked not only by staurosporine, an inhibitor of serine/threonine protein kinases, at 1 microM, but also by calyculin A, an inhibitor of protein phosphatases 1 and 2A, at 0.2 microM. It appeared also that protein synthesis de novo was required for the GCC box-mediated transcription of the reporter gene. Accumulation of mRNAs for various ERFs (ethylene-responsive transcription factors), which have been shown to bind specifically to the GCC box, was also induced by TvX prior to increases in the level of mRNA for a class I basic chitinase. In particular, the level of mRNA for EFR2 reached a maximum from 3 to 6 h, whereas levels of mRNAs for ERF3 and ERF4 were highest 0.5 h after the start of treatment of TvX and decreased thereafter. Moreover, induction of accumulation of the mRNA for ERF2 was inhibited by staurosporine and calyculin A. These results suggest that ERF2 might play a major role in TvX-induced, GCC box-mediated transcription of genes and that both protein kinase(s) and protein phosphatase(s) might be involved, as positive regulators, in the signal transduction pathway that leads to expression of ERF2 and subsequent GCC box-mediated transcription of genes.