Expression of the glycoprotein hormone alpha-subunit gene occurs in the pituitaries of all mammals and in the placentas of primates and horses. In humans, tandem cAMP response elements (CREs), located in the proximal promoter-regulatory region of the alpha-subunit gene, act together with an adjacent upstream regulatory element to confer placenta-specific expression. Here, we report that the alpha-subunit genes of Old World Monkeys contain a single functional CRE. This suggests that tandem CREs are unique to higher primates and humans and are not absolutely required for placenta-specific expression. In contrast, the comparable promoter-regulatory region of the horse alpha-subunit gene lacks a functional CRE but appears to retain a functional upstream regulatory element. This suggests that acquisition of placenta-specific expression of the alpha-subunit gene occurred independently in these distantly related mammals. As a result, different combinations of cis-acting elements may explain why expression of the alpha-subunit gene only occurs in placenta of primates and horses.