We have exploited the structural homology, but different patterns of expression of the murine and human Thy-1 genes to map a number of tissue-specific enhancer elements in the genes. All of these are located downstream from the site of transcriptional initiation. The human gene contains separate elements which direct expression to the kidney or spleen epithelium. The murine gene lacks these elements but instead contains a thymocyte specific enhancer in the third intron. Developmentally-regulated expression in nerve cells is directed (at least in part) by an atypical element in the first intron. The latter is active on heterologous promoters, but is position and distance dependent.