The endocrine function of the heart was shown by the identification of a potent inhibitor of renal tubular NaCl reabsorbtion, atrial natriuretic peptide/factor (ANP), in atrial extracts. Since then, Nppa, the gene encoding ANP, has become an important tool for molecular and developmental biologists. Expression of Nppa is an early and specific marker for the differentiating working myocardium of the atria and ventricles of the developing heart. Around the time of birth, ventricular Nppa expression is down-regulated, to be reactivated in response to a variety of cardiovascular disorders. Many aspects of the regulatory pathways that control Nppa gene expression during cardiac development or disease have been revealed. However, several fundamental issues remain to be resolved. Particularly, the regulatory mechanisms underlying the ventricular Nppa expression in the embryonic heart and the reactivation in the failing ventricle remain unclear. Here we review current knowledge on the transcriptional regulation of the Nppa gene.