Upstream of N-ras (Unr) has been described as an internal initiation trans-acting factor (ITAF) in the cap-independent translation of some particular viral and cellular mRNAs. Two factors led us to hypothesize that the UNR 5'-untranslated region (5'-UTR) may contain an internal ribosome entry site (IRES). The first was the requirement for persisting Unr expression under conditions that correlate with cap-independent translation. The other was the observation that the primary UNR transcript contains a 447 nt long 5'-UTR including two upstream AUGs that may restrict translation initiation via cap-dependent ribosome scanning. Here we report that the UNR 5'-UTR allows IRES-dependent translation, as revealed by a dicistronic reporter assay. Various controls ruled out the contribution of leaky scanning, cryptic promoter sequences or RNA processing events to the ability of the UNR 5'-UTR to mediate internal initiation of translation. Ultraviolet cross-linking analysis and RNA affinity chromatography revealed the binding of polypyrimidine tract binding protein (PTB) to the UNR IRES, requiring a pyrimidine-rich region (nucleotides 335-355). Whereas overexpression of PTB in several cell lines inhibited UNR IRES activity and UNR protein expression, depletion of endogenous PTB using RNAi increased UNR IRES activity. Moreover, a mutant version of the UNR IRES lacking the PTB binding site was more efficient at directing IRES-mediated translation. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that translation of the ITAF Unr can itself be regulated by an IRES that is downregulated by PTB.