RelA and RelB are two members of the NF-kappaB family that differ structurally and functionally. While RelA is regulated through its cytosolic localization by inhibitor proteins or IkappaB and not through transcriptional mechanisms, the regulation of RelB is poorly understood. In this study we demonstrate that stimuli (TNF or LPS) lead within minutes to the nuclear translocation of RelA, but require hours to result in the nuclear translocation of RelB. The delayed nuclear translocation of RelB correlates with increases in its protein synthesis which are secondary to increases in RelB gene transcription. RelA is alone sufficient to induce RelB gene transcription and to mediate the stimuli-driven increase in RelB transcription. Cloning and characterization of the RelB 5' untranslated gene region indicates that RelB transcription is dependent on a TATA-less promoter containing two NF-kappaB binding sites. One of the NF-kappaB sites is primarily involved in the binding of p50 while the other one in the binding and transactivation by RelA and also RelB. Lastly, it is observed that p21, a protein involved in cell cycle control and oncogenesis known to be regulated by NF-kappaB, is upregulated at the transcriptional level by RelB. Thus, RelB is regulated at least at the level of transcription in a RelA and RelB dependent manner and may exert an important role in p21 regulation.