We investigated the mechanisms by which corticosteroids regulate the expression of the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) in neurones. Aldosterone and dexamethasone produced a dose-dependent increase of MR and mRNA levels in cultured primary hippocampal neurones. Transient transfection of neuroblastoma cells showed that corticosteroids directly activate the rat MR promoter, indicating that the steroid-induced increase in the MR mRNA concentration is at least partially transcriptional. Progressive 5\' deletions of the MR promoter sequence revealed that the promoter induction cannot be assigned to a single element. An oligonucleotide comprising a consensus half-glucocorticoid responsive element located at -319 bp in the MR promoter stimulated the corticosteroid-induced activation of the heterologous promoter. Cloning three of these enhancers in tandem greatly potentiated the responses to glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, suggesting that although this element is a weak enhancer it can, in combination with other enhancer elements, induce MR gene expression by both types of corticosteroid receptors.