Recent studies have shown that vitamin B6 modulates transcriptional activation by the human glucocorticoid receptor in HeLa S3 cells. We have now examined the possibility that vitamin B6 might similarly influence transcriptional activation by the glucocorticoid receptor in other cell types, as well as gene expression mediated by other members of the steroid hormone receptor superfamily. We show that elevated vitamin B6 concentrations suppress by 40-65% the level of transcription mediated through the endogenous murine L cell glucocorticoid receptor, as well as the human receptor transfected into E8.2 and T47D cells. In contrast, glucocorticoid receptor-mediated transcription was enhanced 60-110% in mild vitamin deficiency. The level of hormone-independent constitutive gene expression was not affected by these same alterations in vitamin B6 concentration. These studies indicated that the transcriptional modulatory effects of the vitamin were neither restricted to specific cell types nor limited to the human form of the glucocorticoid receptor. We next determined if hormone-induced transcription by several other steroid receptors (androgen, progesterone, and estrogen receptors) was analogously affected by alterations in vitamin B6 concentration. Analysis of gene expression mediated through the mouse mammary tumor virus promoter revealed that transcriptional activation of both the androgen and progesterone receptors was reduced by 35-40% under conditions of elevated vitamin B6 and enhanced by 60-90% in deficiency, again under conditions where constitutive expression was unaffected. Using a different promoter, the estrogen-regulated vitellogenin promoter, we found that transcriptional activation of the estrogen receptor was similarly affected. Estrogen-induced gene expression was reduced by 30% under conditions of elevated intracellular vitamin B6 and enhanced by 85% in vitamin deficiency. Thus, vitamin B6 modulates transcriptional activation by multiple classes of steroid hormone receptors. The similarities in vitamin B6 effects on transcription mediated through different promoters, the mouse mammary tumor virus and vitellogenin promoters, suggest that this vitamin may modulate the expression of a diverse array of hormonally responsive genes. These observations together support the hypothesis that vitamin B6 represents a physiological modulator of steroid hormone action.