The ST2 gene encodes receptor-like molecules that are very similar to the type I interleukin-1 receptor. Two distinct types of the ST2 gene products, ST2 (a soluble secreted form) and ST2L (a transmembrane form) are produced by alternative splicing. Here we demonstrate that the human ST2 gene has two alternative promoters followed by distinct noncoding first exons, which are located more than 8 kb apart and are spliced to the common exon 2 containing the translation initiation site. Within 1001 bp upstream of the transcription initiation site of the cloned distal promoter, there are four GATA-1. The main promoter used for the expression of the ST2 gene in UT-7, a human leukaemic cell line, is distinct from that in TM12, a human fibroblastic cell line. Although UT-7 cells use both distal and proximal promoters, the distal promoter is used dominantly for expression of both ST2 and ST2L mRNA. On the other hand, almost all transcription in TM12 cells starts from the proximal promoter. These results contrast with those of former studies on the rat system, in which ST2 and ST2L mRNA were generated by use of the proximal and distal promoters, respectively. Furthermore, UT-7 cells use multiple transcription initiation sites in both the proximal and distal promoters, whereas the transcription of the ST2 gene in TM12 cells starts at a unique site. Intriguingly, these results suggest that ST2 and ST2L proteins have distinct functions in different cells within different biological systems, such as those of growth control, differentiation and immunological responses.