The effect of modulators of protein phosphorylation on the transcriptional activity of the androgen receptor (AR) was studied under transient expression conditions. Activators of protein kinase-A [8-bromo-cAMP (8-Br-cAMP)] and protein kinase-C (phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate) or an inhibitor of protein phosphatase-1 and -2A (okadaic acid) influenced minimally pMMTV-chloramphenicol acetyl-transferase (CAT) activity in CV-1 cells cotransfected with an AR expression plasmid in the absence of androgen. In the presence of testosterone, however, all compounds enhanced AR-mediated transactivation by 2- to 4-fold. A nonsteroidal antiandrogen, Casodex, behaved as a pure antagonist; it blunted the action of testosterone and was not rendered agonistic by activators of protein kinase-A. A reporter plasmid containing two androgen response elements (AREs) in front of the thymidine kinase promoter (pARE2tk-CAT) was also used to examine promoter specificity. It was activated by 8-Br-cAMP, forskolin, or okadaic acid even without AR or androgen. However, when forskolin or okadaic acid was used together with androgen and AR, the resulting AR-dependent transactivation of pARE2tk-CAT was more than additive. Intact DNA- and ligand-binding domains, but not the N-terminal amino acid residues 40-147, of the receptor were mandatory for the synergism between protein kinase-A activators and androgen. Immunoreactive AR content in transfected COS-1 cells was not influenced by exposure to 8-Br-cAMP. Similar results were obtained by ligand binding assays. Quantitative or qualitative differences were not observed in DNA-binding characteristics between receptors extracted from cells treated with testosterone with or without protein kinase-A activator. Collectively, the synergistic stimulation of AR-dependent transactivation by androgen and protein kinase activators is not due to changes in cellular AR content or affinity of the receptor for the cognate DNA element; rather, this phenomenon seems to result from altered interaction of ligand-activated AR with other proteins in the transcription machinery.