We localized the 5' region of the human gene HER2 in a cloned fragment of genomic DNA. This clone contained exons 1 to 4 of HER2, spanning the coding sequence for the first 191 amino acids. The promoter region of HER2 was identified upstream to exon 1 by nuclease S1 mapping and by a functional assay in which the promoter region drives the expression of a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase gene. The HER2 promoter is different from the promoter of the epidermal growth factor receptor gene (HER1), and the GC boxes which are typical of the promoter of the epidermal growth factor receptor gene are absent from the HER2 promoter. One major and two minor RNA start sites located at nucleotides 178, 244, and 257 upstream to the initiator ATG were identified. The first one is 21 and 70 base pairs downstream from typical TATAA and CAAT boxes, respectively. This indicates that transcription of HER2/neu can be regulated by a mechanism involving a TATA box, as well as by other unidentified regulatory elements.