Overexpression of the glutathione S-transferase P1 (GSTP1) gene is related to drug resistance in human cancer cells. However, the mechanisms of the transcriptional activation of this gene remain unclear. In this study, we examined the molecular mechanisms underlying phorbol ester mediated gene regulation using human K562 leukemia cells as a model. Promoter deletion analyses revealed that the activator protein-1 (AP-1) transcription factor site was crucial for 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol 13-acetate (TPA)-mediated GSTP1 gene transcription. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays and transient transfection analysis demonstrated that both DNA binding and transactivation activities of AP-1 were induced by TPA. By supershift analysis, we identified transcription factors c-jun and fra-1 as well as NF-E2p45 as components of the induced binding complex. These results show for the first time that the phorbol ester TPA is involved in the molecular mechanism(s) mediating the activation of the GSTP1 promoter in a human leukemia model.