The proximal 5'-flanking region of the human platelet-derived growth factor A (PDGF-A) promoter contains one nuclease hypersensitive element (NHE) that is critical for PDGF-A gene transcription. On the basis of circular dichroism (CD) and electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), we have shown that the guanine-rich (G-rich) strand of the DNA in this region can form stable intramolecular parallel G-quadruplexes under physiological conditions. A Taq polymerase stop assay has shown that the G-rich strand of the NHE can form two major G-quadruplex structures, which are in dynamic equilibrium and differentially stabilized by three G-quadruplex-interactive drugs. One major parallel G-quadruplex structure of the G-rich strand DNA of NHE was identified by CD and dimethyl sulfate (DMS) footprinting. Surprisingly, CD spectroscopy shows a stable parallel G-quadruplex structure formed within the duplex DNA of the NHE at temperatures up to 100 degrees C. This structure has been characterized by DMS footprinting in the double-stranded DNA of the NHE. In transfection experiments, 10 microM TMPyP4 reduced the activity of the basal promoter of PDGF-A approximately 40%, relative to the control. On the basis of these results, we have established that ligand-mediated stabilization of G-quadruplex structures within the PDGF-A NHE can silence PDGF-A expression.