The tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) gene is rapidly activated by lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Here, we show that extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) kinase activity but not calcineurin phosphatase activity is required for LPS-stimulated TNF-alpha gene expression. In LPS-stimulated macrophages, the ERK substrates Ets and Elk-1 bind to the TNF-alpha promoter in vivo. Strikingly, Ets and Elk-1 bind to two TNF-alpha nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT)-binding sites, which are required for calcineurin and NFAT-dependent TNF-alpha gene expression in lymphocytes. The transcription factors ATF-2, c-jun, Egr-1, and Sp1 are also inducibly recruited to the TNF-alpha promoter in vivo, and the binding sites for each of these activators are required for LPS-stimulated TNF-alpha gene expression. Furthermore, assembly of the LPS-stimulated TNF-alpha enhancer complex is dependent upon the coactivator proteins CREB binding protein and p300. The finding that a distinct set of transcription factors associates with a fixed set of binding sites on the TNF-alpha promoter in response to LPS stimulation lends new insights into the mechanisms by which complex patterns of gene regulation are achieved.