Peripherin is a neuron-specific intermediate filament protein whose expression is activated in vitro by the neuropoietic cytokines leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) and interleukin-6. We have studied the mechanisms of transcriptional activation of the peripherin gene by LIF. In particular, we have identified a 70-bp element [peripherin cytokine-responsive element (Pe-CyRE)] within the 5'-flanking sequences of the mouse peripherin gene (between -930 and -860) that enhances transcription in two neuroblastoma cell lines, NBFL and LA-N-2, in response to LIF treatment. We have also shown by DNA mobility shift assays that treatment of cells by LIF induces the binding of protein complexes composed of at least two members of the signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) factor family to a cis element (Pe-APRE2) within Pe-CyRE. Furthermore, the entire Pe-CyRE, as well as Pe-APRE2, conferred responsiveness onto a heterologous thymidine kinase promoter. However, the response amplitude of the heterologous promoter to LIF was lower than that observed with the 5'-flanking sequences of the peripherin promoter, suggesting that cooperative interactions with surrounding sequences of the peripherin gene are required for a full transcriptional activation.