Excision repair cross complementation group 1 (ERCC-1) is a DNA repair gene that is essential for life, and it appears to be a marker gene for nucleotide excision repair activity. Overexpression of ERCC-1 during cisplatin-based chemotherapy is associated with clinical and cellular drug resistance. We therefore began to assess the influence of various pharmacological agents on the induction of ERCC-1 mRNA in A2780/CP70 human ovarian carcinoma cells. Cisplatin exposure in culture resulted in a 4- to 6-fold induction for the steady-state level of ERCC-1 mRNA in A2780/CP70 cells. ERCC-1 mRNA induction was concentration and time dependent. Cyclosporin A and herbimycin A, which suppress c-fos and c-jun gene expressions, respectively, blocked the cisplatin-induced increase in ERCC-1 mRNA. This effect of cyclosporin A or herbimycin A on the down-regulation of ERCC-1 correlates with enhanced cytotoxicity of cisplatin in this system. The products of c-fos and c-jun are components of the transcription factor AP-1 (activator protein 1). 12-O-Tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA), a known AP-1 agonist, induced ERCC-1 mRNA to the same extent as cisplatin, but did not synergize with cisplatin in this regard. The TPA effect was biphasic, with an initial increase during the first 1-6 hr, followed by decreasing mRNA levels at 24-72 hr. These data suggest that the effects of these pharmacological agents on ERCC-1 gene expression may be mediated through the modulation of AP-1 activities.