By comparing the 5'-flanking region of the porcine gene for the urokinase form of plasminogen activator with those of other cAMP-regulated genes, we identify a 29-nucleotide sequence that is tentatively proposed as the cAMP-regulatory unit. Homologous sequences are present (i) in the cAMP-regulated rat tyrosine aminotransferase, prolactin, and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase genes and (ii) 5' to the transcription initiation sites of cAMP-regulated Escherichia coli genes. From this we conclude that the expression of cAMP-responsive genes in higher eukaryotes may be controlled, as in E. coli, by proteins that form complexes with cAMP and then show sequence-specific DNA-binding properties. The complex formed by cAMP and the regulatory subunit of the type II mammalian protein kinase might be one candidate for this function. Based on several homologies we suggest that this subunit may have retained both the DNA-binding specificity and transcription-regulating properties in addition to the nucleotide-binding domains of the bacterial cAMP-binding protein. If this were so, dissociation of protein kinase by cAMP would activate two processes: (i) protein phosphorylation by the catalytic subunit and (ii) transcription regulation by the regulatory subunit.