The RUNX3 gene belongs to the runt domain family of transcription factors that act as master regulators of gene expression in major developmental pathways. In mammals the family includes three genes, RUNX1, RUNX2 and RUNX3. Here, we describe a comparative analysis of the human chromosome 1p36.1 encoded RUNX3 and mouse chromosome 4 encoded Runx3 genomic regions. The analysis revealed high similarities between the two genes in the overall size and organization and showed that RUNX3/Runx3 is the smallest in the family, but nevertheless exhibits all the structural elements characterizing the RUNX family. It also revealed that RUNX3/Runx3 bears a high content of the ancient mammalian repeat MIR. Together, these data delineate RUNX3/Runx3 as the evolutionary founder of the mammalian RUNX family. Detailed sequence analysis placed the two genes at a GC-rich H3 isochore with a sharp transition of GC content between the gene sequence and the downstream intergenic region. Two large conserved CpG islands were found within both genes, one around exon 2 and the other at the beginning of exon 6. RUNX1, RUNX2 and RUNX3 gene products bind to the same DNA motif, hence their temporal and spatial expression during development should be tightly regulated. Structure/function analysis showed that two promoter regions, designated P1 and P2, regulate RUNX3 expression in a cell type-specific manner. Transfection experiments demonstrated that both promoters were highly active in the GM1500 B-cell line, which endogenously expresses RUNX3, but were inactive in the K562 myeloid cell line, which does not express RUNX3.