The serum response element (SRE) is a sequence required for transient transcriptional activation of genes in response to growth factors. We have isolated cDNA clones encoding serum response factor (SRF), a ubiquitous nuclear protein that binds to the SRE. The SRF gene is highly conserved through evolution, and in cultured cells its transcription is itself transiently increased following serum stimulation. A cDNA clone of SRF expressed in vitro generates protein that forms complexes indistinguishable from those formed with HeLa cell SRF, as judged by DNA binding specificity and the ability to promote SRE-dependent in vitro transcription. SRF binds DNA as a dimer, and the DNA binding/dimerization domain of the protein exhibits striking homology to two yeast regulatory proteins.