The cis-regulatory region of the neurotensin/neuromedin N (NT/N) gene integrates diverse environmental signals in the neuroendocrine PC12 cell line, resulting in remarkable synergistic regulation. An AP-1 site appears to play a pivotal role in cooperative NT/N gene activation, as mutations in this site decrease responses to all inducer combinations by at least an order of magnitude. Here we report that c-Jun acts synergistically with glucocorticoids to activate the NT/N promoter, and that Fos family proteins have novel regulatory effects on this interaction. Cotransfection of individual pCMV-AP-1 expression plasmids revealed that c-Jun most potently activates the NT/N promoter and that costimulation with dexamethasone results in a further 6- to 12-fold increase in expression. Unlike its general inhibitory effects on glucocorticoid regulation in other systems, c-Fos potentiated activation by glucocorticoids when coexpressed with c-Jun, and Fos B had a similar, but more limited, positive effect. In contrast, Fra-1 reversed the direction of glucocorticoid regulation, and Fra-2 abolished synergism. AP-1, cAMP response element, and glucocorticoid response element motifs are required for full cooperative activation by either c-Jun or c-Jun/c-Fos and glucocorticoids. These results indicate that NT/N promoter activation involves synergistic interactions between specific AP-1 complexes and ligand-activated glucocorticoid receptor, and similar mechanisms may regulate NT/N gene expression in central neurons.