Hepatitis delta virus infection sometimes causes severe and fulminant hepatitis as a coinfection or superinfection along with the hepatitis B virus. To elucidate the underlying mechanism of injury caused by hepatitis delta virus, we examined whether two isoforms of the hepatitis delta antigen (HDAg) had any effect on five well defined intracellular signal transduction pathways: serum response factor (SRF)-, serum response element (SRE)-, nuclear factor kappaB-, activator protein 1-, and cyclic AMP response element-dependent pathways. Reporter assays revealed that large HDAg (LHDAg) activated the SRF- and SRE-dependent pathways. In contrast, small HDAg (SHDAg) did not activate any of five pathways. LHDAg enhanced the transcriptional ability of SRF without changing its DNA binding affinity in an electrophoretic mobility shift assay. In addition, LHDAg activated a rat SM22alpha promoter containing SRF binding site and a human c-fos promoter containing SRE. In conclusion, LHDAg, but not SHDAg, enhances SRF-associated transcriptions. Despite structural similarities between the two HDAgs, there are significant differences in their effects on intracellular signal transduction pathways. These results may provide clues that will aid in the clarification of functional differences between LHDAg and SHDAg and the pathogenesis of delta hepatitis.