GRP78, also known as BiP, is one of the better-characterized molecular chaperones. It has been implicated in protein folding and also calcium sequestration in the endoplasmic reticulum. When the cells are subjected to endoplasmic reticulum stress, in particular the depletion of stored calcium and/or the accumulation of abnormal proteins, the rate of transcription of grp78 is enhanced. Previous studies have shown that the core region of the rat grp78 promoter (-170 to -135), which is 95% conserved with the human grp78 core (-133 to -98), is one of the key regulatory elements. Using ligation-mediated PCR, we have found that there are specific changes in factor occupancy after stress induction and the major changes occur within a cluster of bases located in the 3' half of the grp core, whereas other regulatory elements are constitutively occupied. This inducible binding to the 3' half of the human grp78 core region is observed under diverse stress signals, suggesting a common mechanism for the grp stress response. Nonetheless, the lack of constitutive in vivo protection at this region is not due to the absence of a binding factor in nuclear extracts. Using in vitro gel mobility shift assays, we detected a constitutive binding activity which exhibits specificity and affinity to the stress-inducible region. Through sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis size fractionation and renaturation analysis, the activity is found in polypeptides with molecular sizes of 65 to 75 kDa. After a three-step purification scheme including core affinity column chromatography, we purified p70CORE, which is about 70 kDa in its monomeric form. The purified p70CORE is sufficient to form a complex specific to the stress-inducible region.