Transcription factors are regulatory proteins that modify gene expression. Any cellular function requiring alterations in mRNA levels depends upon these factors. The CNS, AP-1 (activator protein-1; c-fos and fos-related antigens plus jun-related factors) and CREB (cAMP responsive element binding protein) families of transcription factors have been extensively studied. The DNA binding complex is composed of dimers formed between the AP-1 and CREB factors and binding specificity is dictated by which proteins comprise the complex. Whereas the AP-1 factors are inducible, CREB and related proteins are constitutive and regulate gene transcription through phosphorylation. Due to seizure activity, many AP-1 factors are induced, but rapidly return to basal levels. However, if neuronal death occurs, fos-related antigens of 35 kDa persist for an extended period and may be involved in regulating genes related to neuronal plasticity. Similar factors are expressed after chronic drug treatment indicating a role in drug tolerance. However, during early CNS development, elevated AP-1 DNA binding consisting of c-jun and CREB occurs in every brain region and is inversely related to the degree of maturation of a particular brain area. These transcription factors are important for gene regulation during CNS dysfunction and development and those present specify which genes are activated.