Villin is an early marker of epithelial cells from the digestive and urogenital tracts. Indeed villin is expressed in the stem cells and the proliferative cells of the intestinal crypts. To investigate the underlying molecular mechanisms and particularly those responsible for the restricted tissue specificity, a large genomic region of the mouse villin gene has been analyzed. A 9-kilobase (kb) regulatory region of the mouse villin gene (harboring 3.5 kb upstream the transcription start site and 5.5 kb of the first intron) was able to promote transcription of the LacZ reporter gene in the small and large intestines of transgenic mice, in a transmissible manner, and thus efficiently directed subsequent beta-galactosidase expression in epithelial cells along the entire crypt-villus axis. In the kidney, the transgene was also expressed in the epithelial cells of the proximal tubules but is likely sensitive to the site of integration. A construct lacking the first intron restricted beta-galactosidase expression to the small intestine. Thus, the 9-kb genomic region contains the necessary cis-acting elements to recapitulate the tissue-specific expression pattern of the endogenous villin gene. Hence, these regulatory sequences can be used to target heterologous genes in immature and differentiated epithelial cells of the small and/or large intestinal mucosa.