Serum mannan binding protein (MBP), a mannose/N-acetylglusosamine-specific lectin, is important in innate immunity. In order to elucidate the mechanism underlying the wide intra- and interracial variety in the MBP serum level, we have studied the transcriptional regulation of human MBP. Rapid amplification of cDNA ends (5' RACE) analysis of Hep G2 RNA indicated the presence of a novel exon, designated as "exon 0," upstream of previously identified exon 1 [Taylor, M.E. et al. (1989) Biochem. J. 262, 763-771]. Two MBP mRNAs with different sized 5'-noncoding regions were detected: the longer transcript starts at exon 0 and the shorter one at exon 1. Promoter analysis involving a luciferase assay vector revealed that the transcript starting from exon 1 predominates over that starting from exon 0. In addition, a hepatocyto-specific nuclear factor, (HNF)-3, which is known to control the expression of hepatocyto-specific genes, up-regulates the transcription of human MBP from exon 1, while a glucocorticoid, which is known to up-regulate acute phase proteins, markedly suppresses MBP transcription. Recently, polymorphisms were found to occur in the promoter region at two positions [Madsen, H.O. et al. (1995) J. Immunol. 155, 3013-3020]. Functional promoter analysis indicated that three haplotype variants as to these positions, HY, LY, and LX, exhibit high, medium and low promoter activity, respectively, in accordance with the results of a previous population study.