Transfected Jurkat cells overexpressing extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1), also referred to as mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase, were selected by Western blotting assay using anti-ERK1 and antiphosphotyrosine antibodies in combination with a functional MAP kinase assay. We then asked whether enhanced ERK1 expression had any effect on induction of T-cell cytokine genes. The results show that overexpression of ERK1 enhances expression of T-cell interleukin-2 (IL- 2), IL-3, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor mRNA; no change was seen in expression of the alpha-actin gene. DNA-binding activities of the transcription factors AP1, NF-AT, and NF-kB were specifically increased twofold to fourfold in ERK1-overexpressing clones relative to nontransformed or vector-transformed cells, whereas no enhancement of CK1-CK2 protein DNA binding activity was detected after ERK1 overexpression. Additionally, increased NF-AT DNA binding activity was associated with functional enhancement of NF-AT transactivating activity in ERK1-overexpressing cells. These results provide direct evidence for the role of MAP kinase in the regulation of cytokine gene expression and indicate that such regulation is likely mediated through the enhanced DNA binding activity of specific nuclear transcription factors.