Human DEC (differentially expressed in chondrocytes), mouse STRA (stimulated with retinoic acid), and rat SHARP (split and hairy related protein) proteins constitute a new and structurally distinct class of the basic helix-loop-helix proteins. In each species, two members are identified with a sequence identity of >90% in the basic helix-loop-helix region and approximately 40% in the total proteins, respectively. Recently, we have reported that DEC1 is abundantly expressed in colon carcinomas but not in the adjacent normal tissues. The present study was undertaken to extend the expression study of DEC1 and to determine whether DEC1 and DEC2 had similar expression patterns among paired cancer-normal tissues from the colon, lung, and kidney. Without exceptions, DEC1 was markedly higher in the carcinomas, whereas the opposite was true with DEC2. In stable transfectants, tetracycline-induced expression of DEC1 caused proportional decreases in the expression of DEC2. Co-transfection with DEC1 repressed the activity of a DEC2 promoter reporter by as much as 90%. The repression was observed with wild type DEC1 but not its DNA binding-defective mutants. Studies with deletion and site-directed mutants located, in the proximal promoter, an E-box motif that supported the DEC1-mediated repression. Disruption of this E-box markedly abolished the ability of the reporter to respond to DEC1. Our findings assign for DEC1 the first target gene that is regulated through direct DNA binding. DEC/STRA/SHARP proteins are highly identical in the DNA binding domain but much more diverse in other areas. DEC1-mediated repression on the expression of DEC2 provides an important mechanism that these transcription factors regulate the cellular function not only by modulating the expression of their target genes but also the expression of members within the same class.