One of the early events in inflammation and epithelial restitution of the gastrointestinal tract is the up-regulation of secretory peptides belonging to the trefoil factor family (TFF) that promote cell migration, protect and heal the mucosa. Their major expression site is stomach (TFF1, TFF2) and intestine (TFF3). Located in the 5'-flanking region of the genes are several consensus sites for members of the GATA transcription factors known to control gut-specific gene expression. By reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR), GATA-6 was shown to be expressed in a variety of tumor cell lines of gastric, intestinal and pancreatic origin. In MKN45, KATOIII and LS174T, cotransfection with TFF reporter genes and GATA-6 expression vectors revealed that GATA-6 activates TFF1 and TFF2 4-6-fold, without an effect on TFF3. The functional contribution of GATA binding sequences in the reverse orientation was further characterized by reporter gene assays using TFF2 deletion constructs and by gel shift experiments.