To elucidate the mechanism by which isoforms of CCAAT/enhancer-binding proteins regulate cyclooxygenase-2 expression, we determined by a novel technique binding of six isoforms of this transactivator to two sequence-specific CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (-132/-125) and cyclic AMP (-59/-53) regulatory elements in human foreskin fibroblasts treated with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate for 4 h. The delta isoform bound to these two elements at basal state, which was displaced by full-length as well as two truncated beta isoforms, a 41-kDa liver-enriched activating protein and a 16-kDa liver-enriched inhibitory protein, after phorbol ester stimulation. Kinetic analysis shows time-dependent changes in beta and delta binding that were concordant with time-dependent increase in cyclooxygenase-2 induction. Overexpression of the 16-kDa beta isoform blocked the promoter activity and protein level induced by phorbol ester. Paradoxically, it increased binding of beta isoforms to the sequence-specific promoter DNA but suppressed cyclooxygenase-2 promoter activation by p300 cotransfection. These findings provide new insight into the regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 promoter by an interplay between two opposite beta isoforms and p300 co-activator.