Rat GH (rGH) gene expression is increased by both thyroid hormone (T3) and all-trans retinoic acid (RA) via a composite hormone response element (HRE) containing three putative half-sites (rGH-HRE). However, it is not known whether 9-cis RA (9cRA) also can regulate rGH gene expression. In this study, we performed a Northern blot analysis that demonstrated that 9cRA, as well as T3 and RA, increased rGH messenger RNA expression in rat pituitary GH3 cells. Transient transfection studies in GH3 cells, using reporter plasmids containing the rGH-HRE and mutated half-sites, revealed that 9cRA-stimulation of rGH transcription was mediated by the rGH-HRE and that all three half-sites are necessary. Additionally, we performed cotransfection studies to elucidate the particular receptor complexes involved in 9cRA regulation of rGH gene expression using CV-1 cells, which contain little or no endogenous RA receptors, and thyroid hormone receptors. Interestingly, in the presence of either retinoid X receptor alone, RA receptors alone, or both receptors, 9cRA caused similar induction of transcriptional activity. However, cotransfection of thyroid hormone receptors with these receptors repressed basal and blocked 9cRA-induced transcriptional activity in the absence of T3. Our data suggest that 9cRA-stimulation of rGH transcription is likely mediated by 9cRA-bound retinoid X receptor- and/or RA receptor-containing complexes but not by thyroid hormone receptor-containing complexes. Our studies provide evidence that several different members of the nuclear hormone receptor family can interact on this composite DNA element, with transcription stimulated or blocked depending on the presence or absence of cognate ligands.