The activity of the rat CYP7A/luciferase reporter gene was increased five-fold by all-trans retinoic acid (atRA) or 9-cis retinoic acid (9cRA) in transient transfection assay in HepG2 cells. Cotransfection with retinoid X receptor (RXR) stimulated the promoter activity in the absence of ligand, however, addition of atRA inhibited the transcriptional activity. Cotransfection with retinoic acid receptor (RAR) did not have much effect on CYP7A promoter activity. The CYP7A promoter, when linked upstream to the SV40/ luciferase reporter gene, strongly repressed the phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA)-stimulated SV40/ luciferase reporter gene activity. The regions conferring the effects of RA and PMA were mapped to nt-176/ -117 and nt-148/-129, respectively. Several direct repeats of hormone response element (AGTTCA) in this region are required for RA response. AP-1 like sequences are located within the region responding to both RA and PMA. Site-directed mutagenesis of the AP-1 site abolished the effects of both RA and phorbol esters. Retinoic acid effect was antagonized by PMA. Moreover, cotransfection of Fos and Jun expression vectors blunted the stimulatory effect of retinoic acid on the CYP7A/luciferase gene activity. Therefore, effects of two different signal transduction pathways converge to a common response element. This regulatory cross-talk may be involved in bile acid repression and regulates CYP7 gene transcription in the liver.