We have analyzed the chromatin structure of the phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK) gene in hepatoma x fibroblast hybrids with different extinction phenotypes. These hybrids included a karyotypically complete hybrid in which all liver gene activity was extinguished, a microcell hybrid that contained a single mouse chromosome 11 and in which PEPCK gene activity was decreased but inducible by cyclic AMP, and a segregant line that had lost all mouse chromosomes and in which the PEPCK gene was reexpressed. We found that only in the completely extinguished hybrid was PEPCK chromatin structure radically different from that in the parental hepatoma cells. In this hybrid, there was no evidence of any factors binding to the promoter or to the upstream hypersensitive site at -4800 base pairs. In the other cell lines, even when PEPCK gene transcription was low, the PEPCK chromatin showed characteristic structures typical of a transcriptionally competent gene, with hypersensitive sites at positions previously described. Loss of the upstream hypersensitive site was also shown to be correlated with the absence of a liver-specific protein factor that binds specifically to the upstream region.