The expression of the trans-acting transcription factor Sp1 in mice was defined by a combination of RNA analysis and immunohistochemical localization of the Sp1 protein. Although ubiquitously expressed, there was an unexpected difference of at least 100-fold in the amount of Sp1 message in different cell types. Sp1 protein levels showed corresponding marked differences. Substantial variations in Sp1 expression were also found in some cell types at different stages of development. Sp1 levels appeared to be highest in developing hematopoietic cells, fetal cells, and spermatids, suggesting that an elevated Sp1 level is associated with the differentiation process. These results indicate that Sp1 has a regulatory function in addition to its general role in the transcription of housekeeping genes.