We have cloned the gene for the chicken erythroid transcription factor GATA-1 (formerly Eryf1, NF-E1, or GF-1). The gene is composed of six exons, two of which encode the two finger domains of the protein. Transcription of GATA-1 in chicken embryonic erythroid cells initiates from multiple sites clustered approximately 200 base pairs upstream from the start of protein-coding sequence. A number of sequence motifs for known DNA-binding proteins are found to be protected in DNase I-footprinting experiments by either erythroid or brain nuclear extracts or by both. Notably, a cluster of three GATA-1 sites is protected by the erythroid extract, as well as by purified GATA-1. We find that the upstream region of the gene functions as a powerful promoter when transfected into embryonic erythroid cells. In primary chicken embryo fibroblasts the promoter exhibits lower activity, which is increased when the cells are cotransfected with a second plasmid expressing the GATA-1 cDNA. The results suggest that GATA-1 protein plays an autoregulatory role in its own expression.