We have previously shown that element(s) mediating a light-induced increase in the abundance of Fed-1 mRNA in the leaves of transgenic tobacco plants are located within the transcribed portion of the gene. As part of an effort to define the mechanism of this effect, we report here that cis-acting elements capable of mediating a 5-fold light-induced increase in the abundance of this mRNA are located within a region comprising the 5' leader and first third of the Fed-1 coding sequence. No activity was detected in the 3' untranslated region of the gene. In a gain-of-function assay, the 5' region was found to be capable of conferring light responsiveness on three different reporter sequences, although experiments with the gusA reporter were complicated by an apparent negative light effect on the stability of this mRNA. Deletion experiments show that at least one essential light regulatory element is located in the 5' untranslated region of Fed-1 between nucleotides +19 and +57. Additional Fed-1 sequences, including a portion of the protein coding region, are required to confer positive responsiveness on the gusA reporter. These additional sequences may include specific light regulatory elements or simply provide an environment in which the leader element can function normally.