Wnt-1 (int-1) is a cellular oncogene often activated by insertion of proviral DNA of the mouse mammary tumor virus. We have mapped the 5' end and the promoter area of the Wnt-1 gene by nuclease protection and primer extension assays. In differentiating P19 embryonal carcinoma cells, in which Wnt-1 is naturally expressed, two start sites of transcription were found, one preceded by two TATA boxes and one preceded by several GC boxes. In P19 cells, a 1-kilobase upstream sequence of Wnt-1 was able to confer differentiation-specific expression on a heterologous gene. We have investigated how Wnt-1 transcription was affected by mouse mammary tumor virus proviral integrations in various configurations near the promoters of the gene. One provirus has been inserted in the 5' nontranslated part of Wnt-1, in the same transcriptional orientation, and has functionally replaced the Wnt-1 promoters. Wnt-1 transcription in this tumor starts in the right long terminal repeat of the provirus, with considerable readthrough transcription from the left long terminal repeat. Another provirus has been inserted in the orientation opposite that of Wnt-1 into a GC box, disrupting the first Wnt-1 transcription start site but not the downstream start site. Most insertions have not structurally altered the Wnt-1 transcripts and have enhanced the activity of the normal two promoters.