We have investigated whether the RNA polymerase III-driven transcription of eukaryotic tRNA genes can be regulated by the prokaryotic tetracycline operator-repressor system. The bacterial tet operator (tetO) was inserted at two different positions (-7 and -46) upstream of a tRNA(Glu) (amber) suppressor gene. Both constructs are transcribed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and yield functional tRNAs as scored by suppression of an amber nonsense mutation in the met8-1 allele. Controlled expression of Tet repressor was achieved by fusing the bacterial tetR gene to the yeast gal1 promoter. This leads to expression of Tet repressor in yeast on galactose--but not on glucose--containing media. Regulation of the su-tRNA gene with the tetO fragment inserted at position -7 has been demonstrated. Under conditions which allow tetR expression, cells exhibit a met- phenotype. This methionine auxotrophy can be conditionally reverted to prototrophy by adding tetracycline. However, a su-tRNA gene with the tetO fragment inserted at position -46 cannot be repressed. Our results demonstrate clearly that the bacterial repressor protein binds to its operator in the yeast genome. Formation of this complex in the vicinity of the pol III transcription initiation site reduces the level of su-tRNA at least 50-fold as concluded from quantitative primer extension analyses. This indicates for the first time that class III gene expression can be regulated by a DNA binding protein with its target site in the 5'-flanking region and that a prokaryotic repressor can confer regulation of a suitably engineered tRNA gene.