The DNA-binding domains of the members of the Fos and Jun families of proteins consist of a basic region followed by a dimerizing segment with heptad repeats of leucine. Fos-Jun heterodimers and Jun alone, but not Fos alone, bind to the symmetrical sequences TGACTCA (AP-1 site) or TGACGTCA (cAMP response element or CRE). We set out to test the hypothesis that in the Fos-Jun heterodimer the basic region of Fos confers specific DNA-binding properties equivalent to the contribution of the basic region of Jun. Fos-Jun chimeric proteins were prepared consisting of the basic region of one protein joined to the leucine repeat of the other. Heterodimers with mixed Fos and Jun leucine repeat segments showed high affinity binding to the AP-1 site or CRE whether they contained two basic regions from Jun, two basic regions from Fos, or one from each source. Heterodimers with two Fos basic regions showed somewhat greater affinity for the CRE and AP-1 site than the heterodimer with two Jun basic regions. The DNA sequence specificity and the purine and phosphate DNA contact sites for each heterodimer were similar. We conclude that in the Fos-Jun heterodimer the basic region of Fos contributes specific DNA-binding properties equivalent to those of Jun. Our results support a model in which the Fos and Jun basic regions of the Fos-Jun heterodimer each interact with symmetrical DNA half sites.