Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) stimulates beta-amyloid precursor protein (APP) promoter activity by a Ras-dependent mechanism in TrkB-expressing SH-SY5Y cells. To determine the signalling pathways involved in the BDNF-induced response, we have analysed the ability of TrkB mutated forms to mediate promoter stimulation. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor causes a significant induction of promoter activity and mutation K540R in the active site of TrkB completely abolishes the neurotrophin-induced response. A substitution of the Y484 residue by phenylalanine, which blocks binding of Shc, reduces the activation of APP promoter by BDNF by approximately 50% whereas mutation Y785P, which blocks binding of phospholipase C gamma, does not affect the response. In addition, the phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)-specific inhibitors wortmannin and LY294002 reduced BDNF-induced activation. In agreement with a participation of both Ras/MAPK- and PI3K/Akt-mediated mechanisms, transient expression of constitutive active forms of Ras, PI3K and other components of both signalling pathways led to a significant increase of APP promoter activity. Furthermore, the stimulation of the APP promoter by BDNF was completely precluded by expression of dominant-negative forms of Ras and PI3K effectors. Taken together, our results suggest that simultaneous activation of at least two signalling pathways, Ras/MAPK and PI3K/Akt, is necessary to mediate a full activation of the APP promoter by BDNF.