The cAMP-dependent signaling pathway has been implicated in cardiac cell growth/differentiation and muscle gene transcription. Previously, we have identified a cAMP-inducible E-box/M-CAT hybrid motif in the cardiac alpha-myosin heavy chain (alpha-MHC) gene promoter. The two factors, TEF-1 and Max, that bind to this motif are found to physically associate with each other and exert a positive cooperative effect for gene regulation. Here we show that TEF-1, but not Max, is a substrate for protein kinase-A (PK-A)-dependent phosphorylation. TEF-1 is phosphorylated by PK-A at residue serine-102. This post-translational modification of TEF-1 repressed its DNA-binding activity, but not its ability to interact with the Max protein. Replacement of serine-102 in TEF-1 by a neutral or a charged amino acid did not abolish its DNA-binding ability, suggesting that changing a charge at the 102 amino-acid position of TEF-1 was not sufficient to inhibit its DNA-binding activity. We also show that PK-A response of the alpha-MHC gene is stimulated by the presence of wild-type TEF-1 but not by mutant TEF-1 having serine-102 replaced by alanine, suggesting that phosphorylation at this residue accounts for the cAMP/PK-A response of the gene. Thus, these data demonstrate that TEF-1 is a direct target of cAMP/PK-A signaling in cardiac myocytes.