Recent gene transfer experiments have shown that an estrogen-responsive DNA element (ERE) GGTCANNNTGACC mediates the estrogen inducibility of the Xenopus laevis vitellogenin A1 and A2 genes as well as the chicken vitellogenin II gene. We report here on experiments that explain the estrogen regulation of the Xenopus vitellogenin B1 and B2 genes. In these genes, two ERE homologues, which have only low, if any, regulatory capacity on their own, act synergistically to achieve high estrogen inducibility. Furthermore we show that synergism of EREs is most efficient, when the two elements are closely adjacent and that it is lost when the synergistic elements are separated by 125 basepairs. In-vitro estrogen receptor binding experiments indicate that co-operative binding of estrogen receptors to closely adjacent EREs is not essential for synergism of ERE homologues that have no intrinsic regulatory capacity. Functional synergism of EREs is observed in the human estrogen-responsive MCF-7 cell line as well as in mouse fibroblasts (Ltk-) cotransfected with estrogen receptor expression vectors. Even expression of a truncated receptor protein lacking 178 amino acid residues of the amino-terminal end allows synergism, suggesting that the amino-terminal end preceding the DNA-binding domain of the estrogen receptor is not required.