Expression of prostate-specific antigen (PA) mRNA was tested at various time periods after incubation of the human prostate tumor cell line LNCaP with the synthetic androgen R1881. Androgen-stimulated expression was observed within 6 h after addition of R1881 to the cells. Run-on experiments with nuclei isolated from LNCaP cells showed that expression of the PA gene could be regulated by R1881 on the level of transcription. DNase I footprints of the promoter region of the PA gene (-320 to +12) with nuclear protein extracts from LNCaP cells showed at least four protected regions. The protected areas include the TATA-box, a GC-box sequence, and a sequence AGAACAgcaAGTGCT at position -170 to -156, which closely resembles the reverse complement of the consensus sequence GGTACAnnnTGTTCT for binding of the glucocorticoid receptor and the progesterone receptor. Fragments of the PA promoter region were cloned in front of the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) reporter gene and cotransfected with an androgen receptor expression plasmid into COS cells in a transient expression assay. CAT activity of COS cells grown in the presence of 1 nM R1881 was compared to untreated controls. A 110-fold induction of CAT activity was found if a -1600 to +12 PA promoter fragment was used in the construct. By further deletion mapping of the PA promoter a minimal region (-320 to -155) was identified as being essential for androgen-regulated gene expression. Mutation of the sequence AGAACAgcaAGTGCT (at -170 to -156) to AAAAAAgcaAGTGCT almost completely abolished androgen inducibility of the reporter gene constructs. One or more copies of the sequence AGAACAgcaAGTGCT cloned in front of a thymidine kinase promoter-CAT reporter gene confers androgen regulation to the reporter gene. These findings provide strong evidence for transcription regulation of the PA gene by androgens via the sequence AGAACAgcaAGTGCT. Interestingly, in addition to the AGAACAgcaAGTGCT element, an upstream region (-539 to -320) is needed for optimal androgen inducibility of the PA promoter.