The synthesis and phosphorylation of protein factor(s) that bind to the positive cis-acting element (-69 to -98 nt) of the CYP2B1/B2 gene have been examined in vivo in the rat. Treatment of rats with cycloheximide, a protein synthetic inhibitor, suppresses basal as well as phenobarbitone-induced levels of CYP2B1/B2 mRNA and its run-on transcription. Under these conditions, complex formation of the nuclear extract with the positive element is also inhibited, as judged by gel shift assays. Treatment of rats with 2-aminopurine, a general protein kinase inhibitor, blocks the phenobarbitone-mediated increase in CYP2B1/B2 mRNA, cell-free transcription of a minigene construct containing the positive element, pP450e179DNA, and binding of nuclear proteins to the positive element. Treatment of rats with okadaic acid, a protein phosphatase inhibitor, mimics the effects of phenobarbitone, but only partially. Thus, both phenobarbitone and okadaic acid individually enhance binding of the nuclear protein(s) to the positive element, cell-free transcription of the minigene construct, and phosphorylation of the approximately 26- and 94-kDa proteins binding to the positive element. But unlike phenobarbitone, okadaic acid is not an inducer of CYP2B1/B2 mRNA or its run-on transcription. Thus, phenobarbitone-responsive positive element interactions constitute only a minimal requirement, and okadaic acid is perhaps not able to bring about the total requirement for activation of CYP2B1/B2 gene transcription that should include interaction between the minimal promoter and further upstream elements. An intriguing feature is the antagonistic effect of okadaic acid on phenobarbitone-mediated effects on CYP21B1/B2 mRNA levels, cell-free and run-on transcription, and nuclear protein binding to the positive element. The reason for this antagonism is not clear. It is concluded that phenobarbitone treatment enhances in vivo the synthesis and phosphorylation of protein factors binding to the positive element and these constitute a minimal requirement for the transcriptional activation of the CYP2B1/B2 gene.