The cardiac genes for the A- and B-type natriuretic peptides (ANP and BNP) are coordinately induced by growth promoters, such as alpha1-adrenergic receptor agonists (e.g. phenylephrine (PE)). Although inducible elements in the ANP gene have been identified, responsible elements in the BNP gene are unknown. In this study, reporter constructs transfected into neonatal rat ventricular myocytes showed that in the context of 2.5 kilobase pairs of native BNP 5'-flanking sequences, a 2-base pair mutation in a promoter-proximal M-CAT site (CATTCT) disrupted basal and PE-inducible transcription by more than 98%. Expression of constitutively active forms of Ras, Raf-1 kinase, and protein kinase C, all of which are activated by PE in cardiac myocytes, strongly stimulated BNP reporter expression. Isolated M-CAT elements conferred PE, protein kinase C, and Ras inducibility to a minimal BNP promoter, however, they did not confer Raf-1 inducibility. These results show that M-CAT elements can serve as targets for Ras-dependent, Raf-1-independent pathways, implying the involvement of c-Jun N-terminal kinase and/or p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases, but not extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase/mitogen-activated protein kinase. Moreover, the essential M-CAT element distinguishes the BNP gene from the ANP gene, which utilizes serum response elements and an Sp1-like sequence.