We have analyzed the ontogeny and putative mechanisms of transregulation of LH receptor (LHR) and transcription factor GATA-4, coexpressed during the adrenocortical tumorigenesis of prepubertally gonadectomized transgenic (TG) mice expressing the inhibin alpha-subunit promoter/simian virus 40 T-antigen (inhalpha/Tag) transgene. The onset of adrenal LHR mRNA and protein expression coincided with that of GATA-4 at the age of 4 months and preceded the appearance of discernible adrenal tumors at about 6 months. In situ hybridization and double-immunohistochemistry demonstrated colocalization of the LHR and GATA-4 messages and proteins in the adrenal cortex. A GATA-4 expression plasmid cotransfected with a murine LHR promoter-driven luciferase reporter plasmid, containing a consensus GATA-binding site, induced a dose-dependent significant transactivation of the LHR promoter in nonsteroidogenic human embryonic kidney 293, steroidogenic murine mLTC-1 Leydig cells and in murine adrenal Y-1 cells. The Calpha1 cells derived from an Inhalpha/Tag adrenal tumor did not show this response, apparently due to their high endogenous GATA-4 expression. However, an additional link between GATA-4 and LHR in Calpha1 cells was provided upon the LH/human chorionic gonadotropin stimulation of LHR promoter activity; mutations or deletion of the consensus GATA-4 binding site of the LHR promoter abolished this transactivation. EMSAs further proved GATA-4 binding to the putative consensus GATA recognition site. Our results demonstrate direct interrelationship between LHR and GATA-4 expression during adrenocortical tumorigenesis of the inhalpha/Tag mice. There is apparently a positive and reciprocal feed-forward amplification link between LHR and GATA-4 expression. This mechanism gradually and in synergy with Tag expression leads to formation of the LH-dependent adrenocortical tumors.