Cyclic nucleotide-binding (CNB) domains allosterically regulate the activity of proteins with diverse functions, but the mechanisms that enable the cyclic nucleotide-binding signal to regulate distant domains are not well understood. Here we use optical tweezers and molecular dynamics to dissect changes in folding energy landscape associated with cAMP-binding signals transduced between the two CNB domains of protein kinase A (PKA). We find that the response of the energy landscape upon cAMP binding is domain specific, resulting in unique but mutually coordinated tasks: one CNB domain initiates cAMP binding and cooperativity, whereas the other triggers inter-domain interactions that promote the active conformation. Inter-domain interactions occur in a stepwise manner, beginning in intermediate-liganded states between apo and cAMP-bound domains. Moreover, we identify a cAMP-responsive switch, the N3A motif, whose conformation and stability depend on cAMP occupancy. This switch serves as a signaling hub, amplifying cAMP-binding signals during PKA activation.