The cyclic AMP (cAMP)-responsive factor CREB promotes cellular gene expression, following its phosphorylation at Ser133, via recruitment of the coactivator paralogs CREB-binding protein (CBP) and p300. CBP and p300, in turn, appear to mediate target gene induction via their association with RNA polymerase II complexes and via intrinsic histone acetyltransferase activities that mobilize promoter-bound nucleosomes. In addition to cAMP, a wide variety of stimuli, including hypoxia, UV irradiation, and growth factor addition, induce Ser133 phosphorylation with stoichiometry and kinetics comparable to those induced by cAMP. Yet a number of these signals are incapable of promoting target gene activation via CREB phosphorylation per se, suggesting the presence of additional regulatory events either at the level of CREB-CBP complex formation or in the subsequent recruitment of the transcriptional apparatus. Here we characterize a Tyr134Phe CREB mutant that behaves as a constitutive activator in vivo. Like protein kinase A (PKA)-stimulated wild-type CREB, the Tyr134Phe polypeptide was found to stimulate target gene expression via the Ser133-dependent recruitment of CBP and p300. Biochemical studies reveal that mutation of Tyr134 to Phe lowers the K(m) for PKA phosphorylation and thereby induces high levels of constitutive Ser133 phosphorylation in vivo. Consistent with its constitutive activity, Tyr134Phe CREB strongly promoted differentiation of PC12 cells in concert with suboptimal doses of nerve growth factor. Taken together, these results demonstrate that Ser133 phosphorylation is sufficient for cellular gene activation and that additional signal-dependent modifications of CBP or p300 are not required for recruitment of the transcriptional apparatus to the promoter.