The location of three glucocorticoid responsive elements (GREs) in rat neuropeptide Y (NPY) gene was determined by chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) assay and nucleotide sequencing. We have reported that mRNA content of rat prepro-NPY is increased by 1.7-fold in NG108-15 cells by 1 microM dexamethasone, suggesting the presence of GRE in the gene. To identify the element, the 5'-flanking DNA of 3.3 kilobases (kb) was isolated from rat NPY gene. When chimeric chloramphenicol CAT plasmids containing various deletions of the NPY upstream sequence were transfected into NG108-15 cells, the region between -2.9 and -2.1 kb relative to the cap site was found to potentiate the transcription of CAT gene in the presence of 1 microM dexamethasone. The nucleotide sequencing of this region revealed three GRE consensus sequences at -2.5, -2.2 and -2.1 kb. The results indicate that these elements present in the far upstream region of the NPY gene confer induction by glucocorticoids.