The cardiac renin-angiotensin system (RAS) has been implicated in mediating myocyte hypertrophy, remodeling, and fibroblast proliferation in the hemodynamically overloaded heart. However, the intracellular signaling mechanisms responsible for regulation of angiotensinogen (Ao), a substrate of the RAS system, are largely unknown. Here we report the identification of JNK1/2 as a negative, and p38α as a major positive regulator of Ao gene expression. Isolated neonatal rat ventricular myocytes (NRVM) and fibroblasts (NRFB) plated on deformable membranes coated with collagen IV, were exposed to 20% equiaxial static-stretch (0-24 h). Mechanical stretch initially depressed Ao gene expression (4 h), whereas after 8 h, Ao gene expression increased in a time-dependent manner. Blockade of JNK1/2 with SP600125 increased basal Ao gene expression in NRVM (10.52 ± 1.98 fold, P < 0.001) and NRFB (13.32 ± 2.07 fold, P < 0.001). Adenovirus-mediated expression of wild-type JNK1 significantly inhibited, whereas expression of dominant-negative JNK1 and JNK2 increased basal and stretch-mediated (24 h) Ao gene expression, showing both JNK1 and JNK2 to be negative regulators of Ao gene expression in NRVM and NRFB. Blockade of p38α/β by SB202190 or p38α by SB203580 significantly inhibited stretch-induced (24 h) Ao gene expression, whereas expression of wild-type p38α increased stretch-induced Ao gene expression in both NRVM (8.41 ± 1.50 fold, P < 0.001) and NRFB (3.39 ± 0.74 fold, P < 0.001). Conversely, expression of dominant-negative p38α significantly inhibited stretch response. Moreover, expression of constitutively active MKK6b (E) significantly stimulated Ao gene expression in the absence of stretch, indicating that p38 activation alone is sufficient to induce Ao gene expression. Taken together p38α was demonstrated to be a positive regulator, whereas JNK1/2 was found to be a negative regulator of Ao gene expression. Prolonged stretch diminished JNK1/2 activation, which was accompanied by a reciprocal increase in p38 activation and Ao gene expression. This suggests that a balance in JNK1/2 and p38α activation determines the level of Ao gene expression in myocardial cells. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.