A plethora of signals induce the c-fos proto-oncogene via phosphorylation of the transcription factor Elk-1 by MAP kinase. We show that the coactivator CBP cooperates with Elk-1 to stimulate c-fos. Elk-1 physically interacts with CBP, which is dependent on the transactivation domain of Elk-1 but is independent of MAP kinase phosphorylation. However, functional cooperation between Elk-1 and CBP requires phosphorylation of Elk-1. Importantly, a carboxy-terminal transactivation domain of CBP itself is phosphorylated by MAP kinase, whereby the transactivation potential of CBP is enhanced. Thus, MAP kinase may not solely activate specific transcription factors but also the coactivator CBP, identifying a novel aspect of MAP kinase function. Thereby MAP kinase stimulation can pleiotropically affect activation of genes regulated by different transcription factors interacting with the same coactivator CBP.