To identify the elements that regulate transcription of the mouse gene encoding ribosomal protein L32 (rpL32), we transfected monkey kidney (COS or CV-1) cells with mutants bearing progressive 5' deletions or an internal deletion in exon I and measured their transient expression by S1 nuclease protection analysis. When the mutant genes were tested in the vector pi SVHSplac, which contains a short segment of the oriregion of simian virus 40, maximum expression was observed with as little as 36 base pairs of 5' flanking sequence, and the mutant bearing the exon I deletion was expressed very efficiently. However, when the genes were tested in a simple prokaryotic (pUC) vector, the expression was increased 3- to 4-fold by sequences between -36 and -159, and the exon I segment was absolutely required for expression. Gel mobility-shift and methylation interference analyses revealed that a nuclear factor specifically binds to a GGCTGCCATC sequence within this exon I segment. These results, taken together with other recent findings, indicate that the elements involved in transcriptional regulation of the rpL32 gene are distributed over a 200-base-pair region that spans the cap site. The contributions of some of these elements are apparently masked in the presence of simian virus 40 ori-region elements.