Kidney-specific cadherin (Ksp-cadherin, cadherin 16) is a tissue-specific member of the cadherin superfamily that is expressed exclusively in the basolateral membrane of tubular epithelial cells in the kidney. To determine the basis for tissue-specific expression of Ksp-cadherin in vivo, we evaluated the activity of the promoter in transgenic mice. Transgenic mice containing 3.3 kb of the mouse Ksp-cadherin promoter and an Escherichia coli lacZ reporter gene were generated by pronuclear microinjection. Assays of beta-galactosidase enzyme activity showed that the transgene was expressed exclusively in the kidney in both adult and developing mice. Within the kidney, the transgene was expressed in a subset of renal tubular epithelial cells that endogenously expressed Ksp-cadherin and that were identified as collecting ducts by colabeling with Dolichos biflorus agglutinin. In the developing metanephros, expression of the transgene in the branching ureteric bud correlated with the developmental expression of Ksp-cadherin. Identical patterns of expression were observed in multiple founder mice, indicating that kidney specificity was independent of transgene integration site. However, heterocellular expression was observed consistent with repeat-induced gene silencing. We conclude that the Ksp-cadherin gene promoter directs kidney-specific expression in vivo. Regulatory elements that are sufficient to recapitulate the tissue- and differentiation-specific expression of Ksp-cadherin in the renal collecting duct are located within 3.3 kb upstream to the transcriptional start site.