The chromatin structure of the macronuclear genes encoding ribosomal proteins S25 and L1 in the ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena thermophila was analyzed. Using the indirect end-labelling technique, DNase-I-hypersensitive regions were located in the promoter regions as well as in the 3' regions of the genes. The DNase-I-hypersensitive regions were present in chromatin of exponentially growing cells, where the rate of ribosomal-protein gene transcription is high, and in chromatin from starved cells, where transcription of ribosomal-protein genes is severely depressed. Micrococcalnuclease-digestion experiments revealed that the promoter regions of the S25 gene and the L1 gene are devoid of nucleosomes in exponentially growing cells. In starved cells, no nucleosomal organisation of the promoter region of the L1 gene could be detected, whereas nucleosomal structures were discernible in the promoter region of the S25 gene. A conspicuous polypurine sequence motif, AARGGGAAA, is present within or adjacent to the DNase-I-hypersensitive regions in the promoter of the S25 and the L1 gene, and interestingly, the same motif is found also in the promoter regions of the genes encoding ribosomal proteins L21 and L37.