Inflammatory cytokines have been shown to inhibit renin gene expression in the kidney in vivo and the kidney tumor-derived As4.1 cell line. In this report, we show that cytokines oncostatin M (OSM), IL-6, and IL-1beta inhibit transcriptional activity associated with 4.1 kb of the mouse renin 5'-flanking sequence in As4.1 cells. The 242-bp enhancer (-2866 to -2625 bp) is sufficient to mediate the observed inhibitory effects. Sequences within the enhancer required for inhibition by each of these cytokines have been determined by deletional and mutational analysis. Results indicate that a 39-bp region (CEC) containing a cAMP-responsive element, an E-box, and a steroid receptor-binding site, previously identified as the most critical elements for enhancer activity, is sufficient for the inhibition induced by IL-1beta. However, mutation of each of the three component sites does not abolish the inhibition by IL-1beta, suggesting that the target(s) of cytokine action may not be the transcription factors binding directly to these sites. This CEC region is also critical, but not sufficient, for the inhibition mediated by OSM and IL-6. These data suggest that the direct target of the associated cytokines may be coactivators interacting with transcription factors binding at the enhancer. Finally, we show that OSM treatment caused a 17-fold increase in promoter activity when only 2,625 bp of the Ren-1(c) flanking sequence were tested, in which the enhancer is not present. Three regions including -2625 to -1217 bp, the HOX.PBX binding site at -60 bp, and -59 to +6 bp have been found to contribute to this induction.