Transcription of the human neutral endopeptidase 24.11 (NEP) gene is androgen regulated in prostate cancer cells. Homology search identified a sequence GTCACAaagAGTTCT similar to the ARE consensus sequence GGTACAnnnTGTTCT within the 3'-untranslated region of the NEP mRNA. A double-stranded radiolabelled oligonucleotide containing this NEP-ARE sequence formed a DNA-protein complex with nuclear proteins from LNCaP cells or COS-7 cells co-transfected with an androgen receptor (AR) expression vector, and with full-length AR synthesized by baculovirus in mobility shift assays. Unlabeled NEP-ARE or consensus ARE but not mutated NEP-ARE replaced radiolabelled NEP-ARE. Steroid-dependent enhancement of transcription was assayed by transfecting ptkCAT reporter constructs containing the NEP-ARE into CV-1/AR cells and prostate cancer cells (PC-3/AR). Enhancement of chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) activity was increased four-fold by androgen, seven-fold by dexamethasone and three-fold by progesterone in CV-1/AR cells, and the NEP-ARE bound to glucocorticoid and progesterone receptor in mobility shift assays. We next performed DNase-I footprinting analysis of the NEP promoter and identified a 23 bp sequence GGTGCGGGTCGGAGGGATGCCCA (NEP-ARR) which was protected from DNase I cleavage by nuclear extracts from COS-7 cells expressing AR. This sequence was 62.5% homologous to an androgen responsive region (PSA-ARR) identified in the promoter of the prostate specific antigen (PSA) gene. A double-stranded radiolabelled oligonucleotide containing this NEP-ARR sequence formed DNA-protein complex with AR but not GR proteins. Unlabeled NEP-ARR, PSA-ARR and NEP-ARE replaced radiolabelled NEP-ARR. Steroid-dependent enhancement of transcription assays in PC-3/AR cells revealed that the enhancement of CAT activity was increased 2.3-fold by androgen, but not by glucocorticoid or progesterone. In a thymidine kinase promoter, the NEP-ARE and NEP-ARR together stimulated a five-fold increase in promoter activity in PC cells. These data suggest that steroid regulation of the NEP gene involves at least two elements including a typical ARE which binds androgen, progesterone and glucocorticoid receptors, and a unique ARR which only binds androgen receptor.