The wide distribution of GnRH-II and conservation of its structure over all vertebrate classes suggest that the neuropeptide possesses vital biological functions. Although recent studies have shown that the expression of the human GnRH-II gene is regulated by cAMP and estrogen, the molecular mechanisms governing its basal transcription remain poorly understood. Using the neuronal TE-671 and placental JEG-3 cells, we showed that the minimal human GnRH-II promoter was located between nucleotide -1124 and -750 (relative to the translation start codon) and that the untranslated exon 1 was important to produce full promoter activity. Two putative E-box binding sites and one Ets-like element were identified within the first exon, and mutational analysis demonstrated that these cis-acting elements functioned cooperatively to stimulate the human GnRH-II gene transcription. EMSAs, UV cross-linking, and Southwestern blot analyses indicated that the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor AP-4 bound specifically to the two E-box binding sites, whereas an unidentified protein bound to the Ets-like element. The functional importance of AP-4 in controlling human GnRH-II gene transcription was demonstrated by overexpression of sense and antisense full-length AP-4 cDNAs. Taken together, our present data demonstrate a novel mechanism in stimulating basal human GnRH-II gene transcription mediated by cooperative actions of multiple regulatory elements within the untranslated first exon of the gene.